The True Origins of a Specious Argument

February 11, 2008 at 12:40 am 52 comments

A Guest Commentary

lawsThe faithful often try to tell us that without god the world would collapse into chaos. They claim that god provided us with laws or commandments to live by and that societies have base their laws on these commandments. This strikes me as a rather arrogant assumption that overlooks some very basic historical facts.

In fact, the relationship probably works the other way around. Religion took its laws from those that already existed. For example, let’s look at the ten commandments. The claim is that they brought rules to a world without any. The implication is that people ran around killing, stealing, and raping with impunity before them. However, codes of law had been written long before the alleged burning into stone of the ten commandments. For example, the Code of Hammurabi was written a thousand year’s before, and there were others before that.

One aspect about Hammurabi’s code that may seem familiar from the first testament is the eye for an eye justice it espoused. Fire and brimstone Christians will recognize much of what they believe and stand for in it. So, rather than codes of law being based on the ten commandments, it seems that the ten commandments were based on these codes of law.

This is not the only case that the old was recycled into something new by a religion. Many older ideas, stories and myths from various cultures have been integrated into them.

So, where did these laws come from? What inspired them, if not some kind of divine intervention? Where did the moral authority come from? The answer is rather mundane, actually. These laws resulted from the need for practical solutions to manage the problems of the growing city states in the ancient world.As settlements grew into towns, and towns grew into cities, it became necessary to govern the behaviour of the growing populations. A system was needed. Property had to be recognized. Order had to be established. Rules were needed to make clear what was allowed and what was not.

The fact that civilization emerged at all probably indicates that those who would kill their neighbours and take their property were always in the minority. If they were not, they would have killed off the more passive minority and then turned on each other. So, it seems the majority of civilized people have always been inclined towards co-operation and peaceful co-existence, at least at the local level.

Practical problem solving using rationality and common sense. Isn’t that how most things get done?

- paulmct

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For The One Life We Have Reasons I Remained Faithful (for so long)

52 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bill  |  February 11, 2008 at 2:36 am

    Well, I think this makes sense. I think morality is inherent in social animals. For instance, wolves provide an excellent example of social structure and “rules” amongst a population. Human’s just needed a manner in which to provide these rules to a much larger audience in these developing civilizations.

  • 2. lalskii  |  February 11, 2008 at 5:12 am

    I feel the dc team is a bunch of disillusioned and fragile humans who do not want to admit that they are so. They feel they are “thinking” animals and this is what their thinking has done to them. All of those among you who claim to have known God or Christ have never made a commitment to His Lordship. If they had surrendered their self and ego to follow Him they would have realized that Christianity is not what most of the American Churches project. It is not a short route to prosperity and comfortable life as the church members were given to understand. You have begun to realize it of late with the troubles you go through.

    However, just because you have been disillusioned you can not rate others with the same grades. American and western christianity in general are paying the price for their hypocrisy and their love for the world. No one, who has tasted the love of God in his life, will ever depart from his commitment to follow Christ, no matter what they have to go through-let alone their de-converting. Obviously, this is a confirmation of the Biblical prophecy about the last days:
    “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”(1Tim.4:1)

  • 3. Doulos Christou  |  February 11, 2008 at 8:12 am

    Interesting notion except you fail to account for the origin of this “rationality and common sense.” Where does the difference arise that separates the human from other mammals that eat their young? The Law that your critique is simply a codification of the innate (again you must declare the origin of this sense) understanding of right and wrong.

  • 4. HeIsSailing  |  February 11, 2008 at 8:13 am

    lalskii sets the record straight regarding true Christianity:
    “It is not a short route to prosperity and comfortable life as the church members were given to understand. ”

    ITS NOT?????
    *smacks palm against forehead*

    Forty years! WASTED!!

    Back to the drawing board, I guess.

  • 5. Chas  |  February 11, 2008 at 8:32 am

    What mammals eat their young? Seems they wouldn’t last long as a species if that were the case.

  • 6. notabarbie  |  February 11, 2008 at 9:22 am

    lalskii – You began your comment with, “I feel.” Now there’s your problem, you feel instead of think.

    You said: “All of those among you who claim to have known God or Christ have never made a commitment to His Lordship.” and then, “No one, who has tasted the love of God in his life, will ever depart from his commitment to follow Christ, no matter what they have to go through-let alone their de-converting.”

    I find it a bit aggravating that you would make such statements when you don’t even know us. How dare you. Just who exactly do you think you are? I will only speak for myself here, but anyone who knows me personally also knows that I truly believed that I made a commitment to the lordship of Christ and I believed that I did taste the love of god in my life, but it was not real. I stepped back and looked at all the facts rationally and I could not believe something that simply is not true. Christianity is no more valid than any other religion and it is my belief that they all began as man’s way of trying to understand the universe and to control the masses. If you stepped back and took a critical look at your beliefs, you would discover that what I say has validity, until you do, please stop spouting mindless Christian platitudes. They aren’t new or insightful to us. We’ve heard them and some of us have even said them ourselves.

  • 7. ED  |  February 11, 2008 at 11:11 am

    lalskii – wow, The christian love emanating from your remarks truly warms my heart. If you for one moment believe what you said, you may wish to work a bit on your empathy skills.

  • 8. LeoPardus  |  February 11, 2008 at 11:59 am

    A good, succinct argument. About the ending sentence though:

    Practical problem solving using rationality and common sense. Isn’t that how most things get done?

    Did you suffer any pain from putting your tongue so firmly into your cheek? :D

  • 9. Zoe  |  February 11, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    lalskii: “[...]You have begun to realize it of late with the troubles you go through.”

    I was wondering if you might give us a list of the “troubles’ the “you’s” are going through.

  • 10. paulmct  |  February 11, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    First of all, I should point out my own little error. Hammurabi’s Code didn’t precede the ten commandments by a thousand years (only 400-500 years), but others did. I had the 23rd century on the brain because I was thinking of another aspect of the biblical story that was already a long established feature of Semitic tales. That was Sargon of Akkad, who was the first of several babies in baskets who went on to be a great king or leader. Well, it worked before, why not use it again?…

    lalskii – There is no obvious confirmation there at all. You choose to believe it, as many people in the past have chosen to believe the end was coming, citing prophecies and signs. But, the end didn’t come. What is obvious is that you refuse to pay attention to the facts. The book you swear by was recycled from previous stories.

    Doulous Christou – Laws do not codify an innate sense of right or wrong. There have been unjust laws. Laws are formulated and written by humans as practical solutions to observed problems. As Sumerian towns grew, their rulers at some point would have realized that, in order to make it manageable and to make it work, they couldn’t have people killing their neighbours to steal their goats. I know it seems rather mundane, and not nearly as wondrous as an omnipotent, omniscient god imbuing us with a higher sense, but finding solutions is what we do.

    As for the source of our reasoning skills, that comes down to the workings of our brain, which is still being studied. We are still learning about it and there is more to learn. If you’re thinking I don’t have all the answers – you’re right. I don’t know if you’re a believer or a sceptic looking for a new system, but you seem to want all the answers now. My post ‘Fear of the Void’ on paulmct.wordpress.com touches on this.

    Bill, HeIsSailing, Chas, notabarbie, ED – Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • 11. Stephen P  |  February 11, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    As you say, the fact that civilisation arose at all implies that most humans have a preference for getting on with their neighbours, even if the obstreperous minority is not as small as we would like. Getting civilisation started was a complicated business – organising agriculture, permanent dwellings, rights of way, storage of supplies, division of labour, markets, resolution of disputes etc – and would have been quite impossible without also having what we often refer to as civilised behaviour.

    And of course civilisation arose much earlier than the written law codes which have survived. Çatal Hüyük in Anatolia dates back around 9000-10000 years. That means that in the time of Moses (assuming for the sake of argument that he actually existed) Çatal Hüyük was a lot older than the ten commandments are now. And whether the codes of conduct were written down then or not, they must have existed.

  • 12. robd  |  February 11, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    It is obvious that organization is far older than religion;
    animals like the human ancestors lived in groups.
    Today animals like wildebeests or wolves can organize themselves well without any need for a god.

  • 13. LeoPardus  |  February 11, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Just an FYI ’cause someone asked, “What mammals eat their young?”

    I can’t say how many species it happens among. It does happen among rodents though as a response to stress, or food/water deprivation. It’s presumed to be a survival mechanism since the offspring can’t be supported in times of deprivation and can’t be cared for properly by a stressed (hunted, injured) parent.

    Now why don’t we ever see this stuff on NOVA?

  • 14. robd  |  February 11, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Also, here in the Netherlands the number of
    believers is slowly declining for decades;
    but no sign of collapsing society yet
    (and with lower rates of murder, divorce, abortion than the US).
    Gods? Not at all needed, really.

  • 15. JustCan't  |  February 11, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    lalskii > “I feel the dc team is a bunch of disillusioned and fragile humans who do not want to admit that they are so. They feel they are “thinking” animals and this is what their thinking has done to them.”

    In response, I would have to say that someone who places “faith” in something they can never show proof for (and by that I mean REAL proof — not the “feeling” of God’s presence that can be felt by members of every religion on the planet) is certainly more disillusioned than someone who does not do this. Actually, disillusioned may be too weak a word here. Let’s try “deluded” instead.

    And as for not wanting to admit we are fragile — well, right back atcha. We can handle death without a “get out of death free card”. We can accept the ups and downs of life without feeling the need to reach out to an invisible best friend who can fix everything for us (but never seems to — probably because the faithful aren’t good enough Christians, are being tested, or just don’t understand God’s grand plan for them.

    Reality is what it is. It just is. At least we can handle the hard truths in life, without looking for someone else to place our responsibilities on.

    The “last days” you refer to are an interesting reference. Seems like Jesus himself had called on his generation to be the last. Since then, there has been fear-mongering about the end of times constantly. Has time ended? Was it the end of times when the non-believers spoke about their problems with religion centuries ago?

    I for one believe there is no way to cheat death or live forever. I for one am not afraid of Hell — I don’t think there is one. And I am capable of making decisions based on facts, not ancient desert superstition. I have no “troubles” I must go through, other than the ones that pop up when the pushy faithful try to impede on my life. I suggest to you that perhaps you are the one with the troubles, contorting yourself to prop up a belief system such as yours.

    Good luck with all of those troubles your blinders will not allow you to see, or your teachings will not allow you to admit. I am glad they are yours, and not mine.

    PaulMCT: thank you for the post. Good points made, so thank you.

  • 16. Jersey  |  February 11, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    Lalskii, why is that people claim that we who de-covert we’re shown the wrong form of Christianity, did not fully submit ourselves to the True God Almighty, yada yada yada? We — well, at least most of us — are not the neo-atheists who are anti-theistic, we are just people who think that religion does not have all the answers it claims to have — well, Ibrahimic religion specifically. (Last I checked, how many of us who talk about our problems with religion here specify Christianity at least, and not point our arguments towards dharmic religions and philosophies)?

    While some of us may find those of religion disillusioned, most of us do not, we are actually very tolerant people who know that not all people will think the same. And besides, if you are Christian and profess the love He showed the world, certainly your comment does not; as is, comments are reflections of who we are and how we think, and by yours I highly doubt you are the Christian you claim to be. While true Christians do follow the Law and Covenant, they also know as well that the second commandment before all is “love thy neighbor,” and sometimes to love someone is to let them figure out things for themselves and not always state what is right and wrong. Like our wager states…If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds.

    LeoPardus, I also got something you can use…don’t some people practice various forms of cannibalism? While not consumption of the young, I have heard of tribes in Africa at least who eat their dead and ancestors to obtain their wisdom and knowledge, and a tribe in S. America who eats their rivals so to gain their strength and see through their eyes too.

  • 17. carriedthecross  |  February 11, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    Good thoughts, paulmct.

    Amen, Jersey.

  • 18. paulmct  |  February 11, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    Stephen P – Yes, I’ve heard about a very early (the earliest?) settlement in Turkey where the people apparently traded in obsidian, useful for spear tips, etc. I don’t know if that is Catal Huyuk. As you say, even though writing had not been invented, codes of conduct must have been established.

    robd – I knew there was a reason I liked being there. I seem to get a relatively large number of references from Dutch sources for some reason.

    LP – Interesting comment about stressed animals eating their young. A few weeks ago, a polar bear in a zoo (Berlin?) ate one of its cubs, so the other was taken away from it out of fear it would suffer the same fate.

    Oh, and my tongue only suffered a slight sprain. Thanks for the earlier compliment.

    JC, ctc – Thanks.

    Zoe, Jersey – Thanks for reading.

  • 19. euphonos  |  February 11, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    I agree entirely – I am a Christian (protestant, non-denom) and it is a source of irritation to me that those with & without these beliefs have such a literal comprehension of events in the Bible. No where in Scripture does it state that the 10 Commandments were the first moral codes, etc., or even the first written down.

    Such a conclusion (that the 10 C’s were the first ‘rules’) has no basis in historical record or in the Bible itself. It would be such a relief to me if those who purport to know so much about Christianity and the Bible would take the time to read it in its historical and linguistic context. It would certainly prevent many from sounding like idiots.

  • 20. Tyche  |  February 11, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    I can’t help but say that I was drawn to this article because I assumed “True Origins of a Specious Argument” would be a refutation (or, at least, challenge) of Darwin’s research and theory of evolution. D’you mind if I borrow title for my own article?

  • 21. paulmct  |  February 12, 2008 at 1:58 am

    euphonos – Thanks for the comment

    Tyche – Two articles of the same title would be confusing, especialy if supporting opposing points of view. I would prefer that you use a different title.

  • 22. Stephen P  |  February 12, 2008 at 3:24 am

    No where in Scripture does it state that the 10 Commandments were the first moral codes, etc., or even the first written down.
    Such a conclusion (that the 10 C’s were the first ‘rules’) has no basis … in the Bible itself.

    Here however the popular interpretation is much more plausible than in some other cases. The commandments are handed down ex nihilo, with no reference to any previous codes. The reader is surely meant to understand that either they formed the first moral code or at least the first (and indeed only) code considered to be of any value.

  • 23. Pete W  |  February 12, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    I completely disagree with you (Steven P). All it says it that that was the one God handed down. Isn’t that reason eough?

    “Why should we note this down?”
    “God gave them to us”
    “Nah not important enough. If it was the first, that would be better. But God? Not so much…”

  • 24. euphonos  |  February 12, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    “Here however the popular interpretation is much more plausible than in some other cases. The commandments are handed down ex nihilo, with no reference to any previous codes. The reader is surely meant to understand that either they formed the first moral code or at least the first (and indeed only) code considered to be of any value.”

    Says who? Where? I have studied this issues most of my life and certainly never come across this view except anecdotely. Seriously, this is what gives Christianity a very bad rep in terms of intelligent argument – unsubstantiated views.

    The 10 C’s may have been the first documented code for the Hebrew nation but it does not suggest in any manner that there were no other written moral codes or that others were not of value. The concept of morals predates the story of the 10 C’s, as does writing.

  • 25. Yurka  |  February 13, 2008 at 9:44 am

    “They claim that god provided us with laws or commandments to live by and that societies have base their laws on these commandments.”
    “. Religion took its laws from those that already existed. For example, let’s look at the ten commandments. The claim is that they brought rules to a world without any.”

    Paulmct, ever hear of the fallacy of equivocation? You seem to be equivocating with regards to ‘commandments’ and ‘providing’. Are the commandments the Bible claims are provided to us restricted specifically to the ten commandments of Exodus 20, ‘provided’ to Moses at that moment? This
    might help. Also note Romans 2:15: “[Gentiles without the law] show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another”.

    Of course morality must have existed prior to the 10 commandments, or Adam, Pharaoh, etc. could not have committed sin. You seem to be confusing the claim that morality is meaningless without a transcendent basis with the claim that God spoke to Moses on Sinai, and gave him an expression of that moral law.

    And so your claim is circular: you assume morality has a naturalistic origin and the 10 commandments a human origin. You dig up the code Hammurabi – case closed!

    “These laws resulted from the need for practical solutions”
    I can’t buy this either. Some of the most successful, intelligent animals such as cats (with the sole exception of lions) have ‘evolved’ quite nicely with no need of any sort of social structures or morality. Again – circular reasoning. You start out with the assumption that whatever is advantageous to survival must have evolved. You then point to the advantage and claim it as proof of evolution rather than an aspect of the Imago Dei.

    I urge people, think about these things- do not just read these articles to bolster your feelings.

  • 26. Yurka  |  February 13, 2008 at 10:00 am

    One more question about #10:
    “Doulous Christou – Laws do not codify an innate sense of right or wrong. There have been unjust laws. ”

    On what basis do you judge laws to be unjust?

  • 27. GoDamn  |  February 13, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Humans are social animals. We desire company. Our survival also depends on it. If we did not create a code of conduct, the strong would deprieve the weak and make it impossible for us to live together which would compromise our ability to survive. Cats are loners, thats the way they evolved. They dont need to have structures and they cannot have them (they stay alone, for the most part). As for morals, you dont see animals killing their own kind, do you? Fight to death between animals of the same species is rare. The loser usually leaves and the winner lets him. Why? Because if they kept killing each other it would lead to extinction.

  • 28. Yurka  |  February 13, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    #27 I’m just saying you can’t use the fact of social morality to prove that morality is of human origin, since we could have evolved like cats. It’s like trying to use the fact of human birth to prove humans never evolved from subhumans, nor were they created. It evades the question of ‘why’.

  • 29. paulmct  |  February 13, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    I’m sorry, Yurka, but I see no logic to anything you say, at all. I gave you the benefit of the doubt and considered the possibility that you may know something about ‘the fallacy of equivocation’ that I didn’t, so I looked it up. I saw no parallels with your argument.

    Noah? When were these 7 laws given? There is no reference. Assuming it was long before the emergence of Sumeria, how did he acquire the technology and tools to build a boat large enough to house the tens of thousands (or millions?) of species? It must have been enormous. Why is there no geological evidence of a global flood? Because it didn’t happen, just as the exodus didn’t really happen. They’re myths with no supporting evidence. Those 7 laws could have been thought up any time.

    As for the biblical quote from Romans, I have no idea of the relevance to anything.

    You found two examples of circular argument where none exist.

    I don’t recall claiming morality has a naturalistic origin, or even recognizing that ‘morality’ is valid. See my posts ‘Absolutely Relative’ and ‘Belief Does Not Make You Good’ on my own blog.

    Case closed?

    Where did animals come into this? And how do they constitute a circular argument?

    I did not discuss evolution at all. The closest reference was in the title of the post. But it was just a catchy title.

    On what basis do I judge laws to be unjust? On the basis that they legitimize, uphold, or enforce situations that no rational person would want to endure themselves. For example, institutionalized slavery and sexism. No reasonable person would want to be deprived of the same freedoms and right to vote enjoyed by others. Therefore, they, in turn, should not deprive others of them. If you want to go on record as saying that slavery and the denial of women the right to vote were not unjust, by all means do so. The authors of the bible apparently didn’t think they were unjust.

    You’re trying very hard to hold onto something you know doesn’t make sense. Why?

  • 30. paulmct  |  February 13, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    OK, since you’re determined to bring in evolution, here goes:

    We could have evolved like cats, but we didn’t. Just like we didn’t evolve like wolves, with their pack hierarchy, or pelicans with their brutal, strongest sibling survives system.

    And what about penguins? They have a highly evolved system of social responsibility that could be seen as being based in some kind of social justice. Every penguin takes his turn on the outside of the pack because no one penguin would survive on the outside all the time.

    So, just as species adapt to their environment, it appears their societal management, or what you might call morality, does too. Evolution is an adaptive process, remember. We are social creatures. Our codes of conduct have been determined by our environment. Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say.

  • 31. Stephen P  |  February 13, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Euphonos: when I read

    Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite. Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee. But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves.

    or earlier

    Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.

    it doesn’t seem to me that the reader is supposed to get the message that these are good and moral peoples. Nor can I recall any passages in Exodus where any other peoples are described as good and moral peoples – please let me know if I missed them.

    Surely the very fact that this was an explicitly God-given code is intended to convey the message that, if there were any previous moral codes at all, they were human products and thus greatly inferior.

    You are correct (AFAICR) in saying that Exodus does not explicitly state that there were no earlier moral codes considered to be of value, but that point is weak, because Exodus doesn’t mention any such codes either. And stories which purport to be some sort of history are generally more likely to refer to something that exists (and is valued) than to something that doesn’t (or isn’t). Note for example how the New Testament repeatedly refers to the Old.

    Do not infer however, from the fact that I have replied at some length, that I consider this point very important. I’m merely saying that the popular view in this particular case is not just the result of sloppy reading.

  • 32. evanescent  |  February 13, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    I’ve been reading the comments and thought I’d weigh in at this point.

    I’m a little confused by some of the comments by atheists on here. As big a fan of Dawkins as I am, his arguments for morality based on evolution are fallacious. His mistake is actually a philosophical one, and I think a few people here (not all) are making the same one. By trying to explain morality, one first has to define it. Only when you decide what morality is can you proceed to explain it, yes? Well, the definition of morality is a philosophically question.

    For example, let’s say I define morality to mean “obeying the word of god” – well I can easily explain morality and justify it using religion. Most atheists and Dawkins in fact, defines morality as some kind of social interaction based on altruism.

    The author of the article gets it right by finishing with “Practical problem solving using rationality and common sense.” Which means morality is a guide to our actions that is based on reason. Well, animals can’t be moral then. We see a mother lion protecting her young and think “awww” or we see the mother lion ripping the throat of a gazelle out and think “eeugh” – but the lion isn’t good or bad – it’s amoral – it has no choice in the matter.

    Why do we not hold animals responsible for their actions? Why are animals not guilty of crimes? It’s because they don’t understand or control their actions – they are incapable of reasoned thought like a human being. It’s the human capacity for rationality, to CHOOSE our actions, that makes us morally accountable for them – it also makes us moral beings. Morality is not in-built behaviour – it is a code that we can DISCOVER.

    There is no doubt that evolution has selected for behaviour like sociability and kinship, and kindness etc. But evolution has also selected for magical and wishful thinking. Implicit in these assumptions is the notion that being kind is “good”. Well, yes it is, but that’s because our pre-defined philosophy of morality suggests it is. No one suggests that magical thinking is moral – it is a result of evolution, so why suggest that morality is an evolutionary social principle? It isn’t. Morality is a rational personal guide to actions – it only applies to rational beings, and it is not invented or created by man, or god, or religion, or authority, or superstition – it can be discovered objectively because of the type of being man is.

  • 33. Yurka  |  February 13, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    #29 paulmct – Noah died some 360 years before Moses- my only point was that commands were given to Noah (Gen 9:4,6) before Moses. He was given commands explicitly by God and Moses wasn’t the only one. Since the bible records this, you can’t say it disproves the Bible to have people developing laws before Moses which you seemed to be implying.
    Forget about the cats- it only seemed you were trying to prove morality with evolution.
    But if morality comes from evolution, it is an illusion. There is nothing objectively ‘wrong’ with ignoring it if we can get away with it (even atheist Kai Nielsen admits as much in ‘Ethics without God’).

  • 34. pat  |  February 13, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    From Yurka – “But if morality comes from evolution, it is an illusion. There is nothing objectively ‘wrong’ with ignoring it if we can get away with it”

    Does might make right? Even the existence of God does not make something objectively wrong.

  • 35. Rafael Garcia  |  February 14, 2008 at 2:32 am

    Question: Why is there pain and evil in
    the world?

    Answer: There are a number of answers that could be given to a question, “Why is
    something the way it is?”

    One relevant one, but not the most ultimate answer would be that there is pain and evil in this world because men have decided to rebel against God, their maker, and that’s one of
    the consequences of rebelling against God.

    Now somebody can say, “Well, that’s not fair, God shouldn’t punish people for rebelling against Him.” Well, if there is a God, as I have maintained, and if he is the Christian God as
    revealed in Scriptures, it won’t do any good to complain about that. That’s the way God governs mankind and if you think you know better than God about morality, then your in
    Job’s position. You want to have an interview with God and you’ll end up like Job. You’ll put your hand over your mouth and you’ll say, ” I’ve spoken too soon. I can’t contend with the
    Almighty.”

    One answer is that God has decided what would be the outcome of people who decided to rebel against Him; and if they want to be their own little gods, if they want to make their
    own rules of morality and live by them, then the consequences are going to be such and such, and that includes pain for animals in the created order, because in so doing man represented all of creation.

    Even as the second man, Jesus Christ, represents all of creation, and the new heavens and the new earth, which I believe based on faith in the Scriptures is yet to come. In that
    new heavens and new earth, there will be a redeemed earth where pain and suffering have been removed.

    Why is there evil ultimately? The answer is obviously because God has planned it. I believe that he governs everything that’s in history. Does that mean that he caused it? No, I
    don’t believe he compelled Adam to fall into sin.

    Transcript from:
    The Great Debate: Does God Exist?
    Dr. Greg Bahnsen ( Christian Apologist) versus Dr. Gordon Stein ( Atheist)
    At the University of California, Irvine, 1985

    http://www.bellevuechristian.org/faculty/dribera/htdocs/PDFs/Apol_Bahnsen_Stein_Debate_Transcript.pdf

  • 36. LeoPardus  |  February 14, 2008 at 2:58 am

    Rafael Garcia:

    Do you think and speak on your own, or just cut and paste?

  • 37. Rafael Garcia  |  February 14, 2008 at 3:25 am

    Rafael Garcia:

    Question: Do you think and speak on your own, or just cut and paste?

    Answer. Both.

    The reality, LeoPardus, is that no matter what your view you did not invent it. At one point or another, you will “just cut and paste” in your own words. It makes no difference if it’s my words or someone I agree with. Truth is truth. An answer isn an asnwer. It matters not who gives the answer, but rather that someone answers.

    My question to you LeoPardus is what is your response to my “Cut and paste”? I am interested in a serious and educated comment.

  • 38. Quester  |  February 14, 2008 at 6:13 am

    Rafael, my main concern is why the “second man”, who was at the same time wholly God, is so much less effective than the first man. If Adam’s sin affected all of creation, and no one can opt out of the consequences of his choice, how is it that Jesus’ sacrifice failed to change how creation is affected here and now, and why is it possible to opt out of the consequences of His choice?

    My second concern is how we can look at a God who has chosen the consequences you have listed and still call Him good. How can we consider someone like that to desire a personal relationship with every human, loving them and calling them to love Him?

  • 39. Thinking Ape  |  February 14, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Rafael,
    The reason that I would second LeoPardus question is because you don’t show any acknowledgment that you yourself have read the article you pasted. It shows no attempt to dialogue with the contributors or other readers and hence the contempt is apparent. Additionally, it furthers the single most significant cause for de-conversion: the inability of Christians to give answers that they themselves have actually processed. The reason I began doubting in the first place was because every pastor, seminary professor, and regular joe either skirted an issue or gave a cliche answer when I had genuine tough questions about my faith and the scripture (or faith in the scripture).

    So please, do us a favour – show that you care. Show us that you are not simply Googling some key words and pasting the first article that comes up. I give you the benefit of the doubt and personally believe you are not doing this, but it is simply horrible etiquette. Put yourself in our position: would you want to reply to something we copy and pasted from Richard Dawkins’ website or a book by Samuel Clemens? Probably not.

  • 40. paulmct  |  February 14, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    So, Noah predated Moses by 360 years? Well, I followed the link you posted and the site it leads to states that all humans and other land animals were killed in the flood and that all humans today are descended from Noah’s family, the only family to survive the flood.

    How did one family repopulate the world to the extent that all the city states of Moses’ time could exist after just 360 years? It’s mathematically impossible. There were millions of people in the middle east alone. That should be enough to disprove the bible.

    It’s interesting that there is no mention of a cataclysmic flood by any of the other civilizations in the region, and that their histories continued before and after it allegedly happened. So did China’s. That should be enough to disprove the bible.

    The site also states that the 7 laws given to Noah included a ban on incest. Apparently the first thing his family did after the waters subsided was break that law. That should disprove the bible.

    I reiterate the ark would have had to have been enormous. It would have been physically impossible at the time. That should disprove the bible.

    Then there’s the way the same story elements keep recurring in all these semitic myths. A cataclysmic flood drowns the sinners and saves the righteous; the Red Sea parts to allow the Hebrews to pass then closes on the Egyptians and drowns them. Moses started out in a basket on a river then led his people; so did Sargon of Akkad and several other Semitic kings. Apparently, the Pharoah killed the first born sons to prevent the birth of his usurper; I’ve heard King Herod did the same. Hmmm… They seem to like certain things that really spice up a story. They should be in the movie business. Wait a minute… At the very least, that makes the bible highly suspect.

    None of these things happened, or could have happened. That should disprove the bible. It is fiction.

    I wasn’t trying to prove morality through evolution. And I shouldn’t have stated that penguins had a “highly evolved” system of social responsibility. I was tired, having only slept 2.5 hours, and getting irritated. It’s definitely responsive to their envioronment, though.

  • 41. LeoPardus  |  February 14, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Raphael:

    At one point or another, you will “just cut and paste” in your own words.

    An oddly oxymoronic sentence.

    It makes no difference if it’s my words or someone I agree with.

    Actually it does. Using someone else’s words that you agree with to save having to completely retype a passage is one thing. But by reexpressing, in your own words, you demonstrate understanding (or misunderstanding as the case may be).
    And when you simply cut/paste, I have to argue with someone else. Not with you.

    Now to address Mr Bahnsen’s thoughts a bit:
    then your in Job’s position. You want to have an interview with God and you’ll end up like Job.

    I would be ecstatically happy with that. If there really was a God and he spoke to me, even scared the willies out of me in the process, at least I’d know there was a God. I would return to the faith. Wife, friends, priests, etc could all be as glad of it as I would be.

    In the end Bahnsen gets to the real point of his apologetic: “Why is there evil ultimately? The answer is obviously because God has planned it.” Followed by: “Does that mean that he caused it? No.”

    So Bahnsen’s incomprehensibly evil deity set up everything and planned it so that evil, suffering, anguish, condemnation, etc would all happen. But then, in flagrant disregard for sense, Bahnsen wants to toss this malevolent planner of evil go scot free from all culpability by imagining that man is to blame for carrying out plans he was powerless to resist.

    Obviously you buy into Reformed theology. Raphael, it’s evil, pure and simple. No nastier, more vicious, ugly construct of mankind ever came along that could compete with Calvin’s grand monstrosity.

    But if you’ve truly bought into it, you’re going to have a very hard time seeing clearly. It’s a method of double-think, and as such it severely damages the thought processes. You’ve abused the organ of thought and logic to accept something that is inherently contradictory. As such you will need time to rehabilitate the thinking organ. Stop now and get away from Reformed (rightly called Deformed) thinking.

    Yep. I was a victim of it long ago. It took a while to undo the damage. Yes, I said damage. I’m fairly sure that if I could do post-mortem examinations on the brains of Reformed and non-Reformed, I could tie physical pathologies to the long-term brain abuse of Reformed thinking.

  • 42. Rafael Garcia  |  February 14, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    To LeoPardus:

    You Said: ” I would be ecstatically happy with that. If there really was a God and he spoke to me, even scared the willies out of me in the process, at least I’d know there was a God. I would return to the faith. Wife, friends, priests, etc could all be as glad of it as I would be.”

    It is highly unlikely that you would return to the faith after seeing God face to face. First, Moses performed many miracles in the sight of Egypt and did they repent & turn to the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob? No. In fact, the more they saw the more they rebelled and hated Him. Jesus did many signs and not all the Jews and gentiles believed. The problem is not the lack of proof, but rather that there is hate for God in the heart of the person who needs that proof. Right now, as an apostate, you are the highest most intellectual being because you have said in your heart, ” There is no God.”

    You said: “So Bahnsen’s incomprehensibly evil deity set up everything and planned it so that evil, suffering, anguish, condemnation, etc would all happen. But then, in flagrant disregard for sense, Bahnsen wants to toss this malevolent planner of evil go scot free from all culpability by imagining that man is to blame for carrying out plans he was powerless to resist.”

    First, you charged my God as being an “evil deity”. This kind of discourse is typical when speaking of the reality of evil. It’s as if you all read from the same script. It is the same so called ” Individualistic & free thinking” that so many boast about.

    God ordained evil, but is not the cause of it. Man is the cause of evil because there is Law. In Romans 5, it states:

    Rom 5:20,21 – Now the law came in to increase the trespass (sin), but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    It was the perfect Law of God that made man, not God. God is perfect & sinless. His law offends those who hate Him. Man hates to be restrained by any absolute standard. That is why you have fallen away, not because you lack prook.

    Thank you.

    Rafael Garcia

  • 43. Austin  |  February 14, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    “His law offends those who hate Him.”

    I find it hard to hate what I don’t even believe exists.

  • 44. LeoPardus  |  February 14, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    Raphael:

    It is highly unlikely that you would return to the faith after seeing God face to face. and so on…

    Nice try but it’s bunk. I’ve heard this a lot. To save retyping what I’ve already typed, go read my article called “The call for miracles”. I address precisely the totally lame objection you just leveled.

    God ordained evil, but is not the cause of it.

    An all powerful being whose will cannot be resisted, ordained evil, but somehow did not cause, and is not responsible for it. Sheesh!

    Man is the cause of evil

    Wow! We humans are more powerful than we knew.

    It was the perfect Law of God that made man, not God.

    I would have though God made man. How did the Law make man?
    Perhaps you meant to say the Law made man evil? In that case, you could argue with the late Saul of Tarsus instead of me.

    God is perfect & sinless.

    That’s a definition you choose to apply to the deity you’ve constructed. Looking at your deity, I must say that he fails of the definition of those terms.

    His law offends those who hate Him.

    I don’t hate the Easter bunny or any other non-existent being, nor their laws.
    A more accurate statement might be, “The arrogant, self-assured people who claim to speak for Him, offend people.”

    Man hates to be restrained by any absolute standard.

    And it’s a rare thing to find an absolute standard. Certainly won’t find any in the Bible, since everyone so enjoys interpreting it as they please.

    That is why you have fallen away, not because you lack proof

    Ding! Ding! You win a free booger for choosing from the “List of convenient explanations”. It’s a great list of ways for a Christian to pigeonhole de-converts so that the Christian can get on with his neat, simple, little world.

    We simply MUST get that list posted somewhere. Karen, you’re the keeper of it. Can you make it into an article?

    Anyway Raphael: If you would take the trouble to actually read my bio and posts, (and those of others hereabouts) you might find that your ‘short and simple’, ‘one size fits all’ categories don’t work so well and universally as you’d like them to.

  • 45. Rafael Garcia  |  February 15, 2008 at 12:26 am

    To: LeoPardus

    I am sorry. I thought I was interacting with mature people in this blog. It is obvious that this is a “teen site”. I really do not have time for cheap wise cracks. If this is the fruit of your worldview, I can assure you all that it will not promise you any progess to know Greater Truth. As it is written:

    “For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the discernment of the discerning will I bring to nought. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe.
    (1 Corinthians 1:18-21 ASV)

    Scripture is the final Authority and not mans finite understanding.

    Thank you & so long.

    -Rafael Garcia

  • 46. Thinking Ape  |  February 15, 2008 at 4:34 am

    Rafael,

    Scripture is the final Authority and not mans finite understanding.

    Since this is a recurring theme, who do you believe has the authority to interpret the scripture? Do you believe it solely through the work of the Holy Ghost, or is it in accordance with correct interpretive method, or a specific reconciliation of both, and if so, how do we know whether what is interpreted is correct? Does scripture actually self-interpret itself? There are hundreds of denominations and millions of radical ideas that appear to compromise.

    More pragmatically, do you believe that the writers of the various books of the Bible believed they were commissioned by God to write what would later become canonized?

  • 47. LeoPardus  |  February 15, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Raphael:

    Typical response we see around here from most christians. Everybody isn’t all nicey-lovely to you so you take on the poor, picked on, pitiful me face. Somehow I imagine that Paul, Peter, Stephen, and others, who got the trad kicked out of them for challenging people’s beliefs, would be less than impressed with your ability to handle “persecution”.

    But then this is just what one should expect from a modern, easy living, have-it-my-way, cafeteria, christian.

    Think boyo. You came onto a site that says up front that it’s for skeptical, de-converting, or former believers. From your perspective, that ought to read pretty close to “enemy territory”. And you walk in with long, cut/paste jobs, that are supposed to tell us what atheists/agnostics are. Then you proceed to tell me why I de-converted (without reading any of the biography or posts that would give you background on me). And you still refuse to invest any time reading up on who we are, why we are, what we are.

    And now you want to pout and take your football and go home. And you toss of a few insults as a parting shot.

    What a great, loving, courageous, grace-filled christian you’ve shown yourself to be. Is that what your good and loving god has done for you with his indwelling spirit?

    There are some Christians who hang around here regularly. They ask questions, they seek to understand, they seek to be kind. THEN they may offer ideas or explanations. I may not agree with them, and I do challenge them on what they say. But I can respect them.

    But you? All bluster, and opinion, and arrogance, and pouty, and whimpy? Pfah. Go play in your own yard little boy.

  • 48. Rafael Garcia  |  February 16, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    LeoPardus

    Pro 23:9 Speak not in the hearing of a fool; For he will despise the wisdom of thy words.

    Pro 10:8 The wise in heart will receive commandments; But a prating fool shall fall.

    Pro 10:18 He that hideth hatred is of lying lips; And he that uttereth a slander is a fool.

    Pro 10:23 It is as sport to a fool to do wickedness; And so is wisdom to a man of understanding.

    Pro 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes; But he that is wise hearkeneth unto counsel.

    Pro 12:16 A fool’s vexation is presently known; But a prudent man concealeth shame.

    Pro 13:16 Every prudent man worketh with knowledge; But a fool flaunteth his folly.

    Pro 14:16 A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil; But the fool beareth himself insolently, and is confident.

    Pro 15:5 A fool despiseth his father’s correction; But he that regardeth reproof getteth prudence.

    Pro 17:7 Excellent speech becometh not a fool; Much less do lying lips a prince.

    Pro 17:24 Wisdom is before the face of him that hath understanding; But the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.

    Pro 18:2 A fool hath no delight in understanding, But only that his heart may reveal itself.

    Pro 18:6 A fool’s lips enter into contention, And his mouth calleth for stripes.

    Pro 18:7 A fool’s mouth is his destruction, And his lips are the snare of his soul.

    Pro 19:1 Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity Than he that is perverse in his lips and is a fool.

    Pro 20:3 It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife; But every fool will be quarrelling.

    From the Holy Scriptures.

    -Rafael Garcia

  • 49. LeoPardus  |  February 16, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    Raphael:

    Fortunately I no longer feel that Bible verses must be obeyed perforce. So I can still speak to you.

    Go ahead a read my bio (here’s the link: http://www.de-conversion.org/news.php?readmore=19) and what I’ve said about “Reasons I can no longer believe” and “The call for miracles”. Let me know when you’ve done that much.

  • 50. Vix  |  February 17, 2008 at 8:40 am

    A proverb in the mouth of a fool hangs limp, like crippled legs.

    Question all things.

    It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

  • 51. Quester  |  February 17, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Rafael,

    You addressed #42 to LeoPardus, and he has responded on his own behalf. But, because I am seeking evidence for God’s existence, I would also like to comment.

    Moses performed many miracles in the sight of Egypt and did they repent & turn to the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob? No. In fact, the more they saw the more they rebelled and hated Him. Jesus did many signs and not all the Jews and gentiles believed.

    I’m afraid that is stronger evidence that the miracles did not actually happen than it is evidence that anyone seeking evidence of God hates either God or God’s law.

    You went on to say, First, you charged my God as being an “evil deity”. This kind of discourse is typical when speaking of the reality of evil. It’s as if you all read from the same script.

    I can believe it. In my case, that script is the bible, which describes God as doing evil. Why are you surprised that people working from similar evidence are reaching similar conclusions?

  • 52. Stinky29  |  October 22, 2009 at 11:08 am

    Such a thing would be technically very difficult for the VR sys- tem, to be sure. ,

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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