Monday, November 05, 2012

Do Abortion Bans Lead to "Back Alley" Procedures?

One of the issues I have not covered in my recent blog posts on abortion is the oft-repeated myth that if a country outlaws abortion, the number of abortions will not go down and women instead will seek "back alley" abortions, dangerous procedures that result in more injuries and fatalities for the pregnant women.

As I said, this is a myth.  But rather than post my own blog on the subject, I recently came across a thorough, clear and fascinating blog by Kristi Burton Brown that I thought I would link to here for your reference.

True or false? Banning abortion does not decrease abortion rates

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Fetal “Personhood,” Abortion, and Allowing Exceptions for Rape and Incest

On October 26, 2012, a post appeared on a blog titled, "The Dead Author's Club" by "Christine" (her last name does not appear on the post) titled "Fetal personahood and criminalizing abortion: a prosecutor's perspective."  The blog had nothing to do with dead authors, and to Christine's credit she explained this from the ourtset.  Instead, she wanted to express her thoughts about the efforts to ban (or even criminalize) abortion except in certain special circumstances such as rape and incest.  Unfortunately, comments have been closed, so there is no way for me to respond to Christine directly.  Even without that opportunity, though, I felt a response of some sort was warranted.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

The “False Gods” of Evangelicalism

On September 12, 2012, Rob Asghar wrote a blog post for the Huffington Post accusing evangelical Christianity of pledging allegiance to an unholy Trinity which he calls the idols of Mars, mammon and sexual purity.  The idol of Mars refers to our allegedly bloodthirsty desire to resort to warfare when we should love our enemies instead.  Our worship of mammon is illustrated through our alleged allegiance to capitalistic materialism and hoarding material wealth.  Finally, he believes we are hypocrites by demanding sexual purity in society while worshipping at a materialistic altar ourselves.

Mr. Asghar does manage to exhibit a certain rhetorical flourish.  Like a good politician, he can get his audience to stand up and cheer as he holds their hands and navigates them down the path he wishes to travel so by the endof the journey they will proclaim along with him how utterly fair and reasonable his position appears.  And to be fair to Mr. Asghar, in many cases his position is fair and reasonable and he hits on some legitimate points that should cause some sincere reflection to take place within evangelical circles.  However, by taking his listeners by the hand and walking them down his path, he has carefully avoided allowing them to look from side to side and notice the other paths veering from Mr. Asghar’s trajectory, many of which are far more lit and enlightened than the destination to which they are being led.  In logical terms, Mr. Asghar commits the fallacy of universalizing the exception.  He points out a legitimate problem within evangelicalism but then overstates its prominence or effect.  He also makes little to no effort to understand the rationale of his “opponents’” position, so in many instances he ends up crafting a straw man and knocking it down.  As a result, while they are certainly some important things to take away from his piece, his ultimate conclusions are overly broad and not well thought-out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What is the Real Issue in Abortion?

There is hardly a more emotional issue out there than abortion.  In fact, many times it seems absolutely impossible to have a logical discussion with people about it.  Personally, I am opposed to abortion.  I don't need the Bible to tell me this.  It seems pretty logical that I cannot condone abortion without also condoning many other clearly unethical practices if I am to hold a consistent worldview.

I have written before about how the entire issue of rape and incest is really a red herring.  Even under those atrocious and appalling circumstances, people would not justify killing a living human being.  I often ask someone if they would condone killing a two year old child that was conceived via rape or incest.  Inevitably, nobody ever says "yes."  Instead, they try to make some other distinction between the two scenarios, usually that a two year old child is a living human being whereas an embryo is not.  And I would agree that IF an embryo is not a living human being, then there is nothing wrong with abortion.  It has no additional moral implications than removing an appendix.  But this illustration shows that for those who bring up rape and incest, their real objection has nothing to do with either one.  It has to do with life.  Is whatever is inside the womb a human life or not?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

External Evidence for Pauline Authorship of Ephesians

I was recently visiting a church on a beautiful Sunday morning when the pastor made an assertion in her sermon to which I felt I should respond.  She stated that Paul did not write the book of Ephesians.  In fact it allegedly was not written for 100 years or more after Jesus' death, at which time an unknown author attached Paul's name to the letter in a practice that this pastor urged the congregation was considered perfectly acceptable at that time.

She expressed herself in much the same way as I just outlined, as if the issue of the authorship of Ephesians was clearly resolved, with no mention of the abundance of scholarship that disagreed with her conclusion.  After listening to the sermon, her congregation would have no idea that a differing point of view even existed in scholarly circles, let alone realize that the perspective they were hearing from the pulpit had no advocates in its favor for at least 1,400 years after Jesus' time and was a minority view even today.

Being a guest, and having more than an ounce of decorum, I did not stand up mid-speech and interrupt in order to insert my two cents.  Rather, I sent an e-mail after the fact in an attempt to encourage this pastor to look beyond the oft refuted criticisms of the likes of Bart Ehrman and instead evaluate what I believe is the overwhelming external evidence of Pauline authorship of Ephesians.  What follows is the text of that e-mail.  In order to keep the focus of this post on the merits of my position rather than a critique of this individual pastor, I have excluded her name and the exact date of my visit.

By placing this information on the TMM blog, it is my hope to encourage others to look at the totality of the evidence and not believe everything they read in such narrowly focused works as Dr. Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus" or his latest book, "Forged."  God bless.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Relatively Football

Football season was upon them and John along with his friend Evan were chomping at the bit for it to begin.  Feeling the need to break out the pigskin, John asked Evan if he’d like to go outside and throw the football around for a while.

“Sure,” said Evan.  “Do you want to try to get some people together for a pick-up game?”

“Nah,” replied John.  “Let’s just toss it for a while.  I’m not looking to get wrapped up in all the rules of a game.  I just want to stretch my arm out a bit.”

“Sounds good.”

So, the two of them went into John’s back yard and started throwing the ball back and forth.  After about five minutes, though, things started to get weird.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Our Knee-Jerk Prejudices

"We often hold our views prejudicially, that is without looking at the opposing arguments, and then we react in a knee-jerk kind of way to people who differ from us." Greg Koukl

Most people will read this quote and immediately react by saying, "Yes, that is exactly what my 'opponents' do all the time! I get so sick of that!" I can only encourage you to look in the mirror. In truth, the odds are that you too react in this way (as do I). It is a reality of humanity, although people are far more willing to see it in others than in themselves.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Consent "Plus"

In my last blog post I addressed the issue of harm.  Many people argue that an action should be considered moral if it does not harm anyone else.  I provided the example of two Peeping Toms to demonstrate that lack of harm, in and of itself, is insufficient to determine the morality of an action.  A similar concept that often arises hand in hand with the harm principle is that of consent.  Under this principle, an action is morally permissible if all parties affected by it give their knowing and voluntary consent.

The same question is properly asked of this alleged justification that was asked of the harm principle: “Is consent in and of itself sufficient to render an action morally permissible?”  As with harm, an example illustrates why this question clearly must be answered in the negative.

No Harm, No Foul

I am sure you have heard the expression, “No harm, No foul.”  If an action does not hurt anyone, then it is no big deal.  Don’t sweat it, so to speak.  Sometimes this expression is used somewhat playfully, like in a pick-up basketball game when someone gets accidentally knocked to the ground but rises unhurt.  No harm, no foul.  But other times this principle is used in more significant moral contexts.  It is often referred to as the “harm principle”: A person is free to behave in whatever manner he or she chooses so long as the behavior does not harm anyone else.  While the actual phraseology of “no harm, no foul” rarely appears in these moral arguments, the concept remains the same.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Basic Logic of Coherence

I am not sure I could devise a better example of blatant logical error than what I recently read in the article linked below.  To make it worse, it occurs in two consecutive sentences, making the flaw all the more obvious.  Here is what the author said:

“Organizations that seek to curtail the rights of any demographic should be disbanded, ridiculed or lose their tax-exemption status.

“I believe that the right of people to live in a manner of their choosing, self-evidently excludes any right to prevent others from living how they choose.”

For those of you who still do not see the problem, it may help to reverse the order of the sentences and offer some brief commentary.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Dangerous Meme

Unfortunately, it is all too common for people to simply repeat something that they once heard without first investigating whether it is true.  When we are talking about our friends and neighbors, this is called “gossip.” But when people engage in this type of behavior in the intellectual marketplace, unfortunately very few folks are willing to respectfully call them on it, leading to more misinformation being spread and accepted by the masses as the truth.

This is how political campaigns are run or ideological drives are pushed.  Start an overly simplistic (and usually misleading) slogan and spread it all over the internet.  Before too long, everyone believes it is true.

I recently came across a similar phenomenon in a discussion on a Yahoo! News article with a gentleman named “Ryan.”  Ryan proposed, without offering support, that “science tells us” that “something can come from nothing for no reason.”  The first question that occurs to me when people make comments like this is what they even mean by “science.”  Science is a discipline, not a person.  In fact, it is a collection of multiple disciplines.  A discipline cannot “tell” us anything.  It cannot speak.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Since its inception in the 19th Century, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has identified itself as a “Christian” church, borne out of the New Testament.  They speak of Biblical figures such as Adam and Eve, talk about Jesus’ death for our salvation and even use traditional Christian terminology such as “the Trinity,” “Salvation,” and of course, “Jesus Christ.”  Based upon these apparent similarities, many in the mainstream American public have accepted that Mormonism is a branch of Christianity and are quick to label anyone who disagrees with them as being “intolerant.”  Mormons themselves will take offense at any suggestion that they are not Christian and even many Christian believers refuse to share the gospel with Mormons, believing they are just another Christian denomination.

Obviously there are many denominations within Christianity, all of which are generally accepted as falling under the Christian “umbrella” even though they disagree on some finer theological points.  Switching from one denomination to another is not a departure from Christianity and does not affect one’s salvation.

But the reason these denominations consider themselves to be part of the same body of Christ despite their differences is because they all hold certain foundational beliefs in common.  In order for any group label to have meaning, it must have a definition.  In other words, there must be some distinctive attributes that differentiate those within that group from those who are on the outside.  While Christianity certainly has a history of multiple denominations, these denominations have shared certain core beliefs such that their differences are peripheral.

Friday, May 11, 2012

ABORTION: Choice, Life and Rape

Insensitive Christians. You say you care about people, but your actions prove otherwise. Just look at how you treat rape or incest victims. You are so caught up in your moral superiority, trying to force your morality on everyone else that you have completely lost sight of the person who is suffering. You say you don’t like abortion. Fine. Don’t have one. But how can you claim to love people, then look at a woman who has gone through the horrifying experience of rape and tell her she cannot have an abortion, knowing full well that her drawn out pregnancy will do nothing but constantly make her re-live this horrifying experience?!

Have you ever heard anyone speak like this? I have. Most discussions on issues like abortion are fraught with emotion. Something about this topic is far more personal than an intellectual exercise about where Columbus actually landed or whether scientists will ever be able to directly observe a quark.  People can talk about some things calmly and coolly, not terribly invested in what the answer turns out to be. Abortion is not one of those things.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


When I debate atheists, from time to time I point out when they commit some of the standard logical fallacies.  The genetic fallacy probably comes up as often as any other.  This occurs when you incorrectly assume that by proving the origin of a belief, you have thereby disproven the validity of that belief.  For example, atheists often claim that morality is merely the byproduct of evolutionary processes.  Even if true, however, at best this may show how people arrived at their individual sense of morality.  It does nothing one way or the other to demonstrate whether objective morality actually exists independent of our perceptions.

In fairness, though, if the theist is entitled to point out logical fallacies committed by the atheist, they should be permitted to do the same in return.  One favorite tactic of many is to claim that in advancing the kalam cosmological argument, Christian apologists like myself commit the “fallacy of composition.”

Monday, April 09, 2012

Reading Biases Between the Lines

I have written previously warning Christians about the way we treat others and avoiding hypocrisy. The Christian Church has a reputation for being too political, sometimes radical, and intolerant and in many instances those of us within the church are at least partially responsible for that perception.

However, I also want to take the opportunity to illustrate the opposite side of the equation.  Sometimes those outside the church work very hard, in my opinion, to find a reason to attach these labels to Christianity, even when it is not justified.  I recently read a conversation on Facebook which began with the following post:

"I just got an email forwarded where the original sender's e-signature stated 'As Christian Patriots, we must be committed to doing the 'Right Thing for the Right Reason', no matter what the cost or consequence.' How can this NOT be construed as creepy! 'No matter what cost'? Isn't that the type of radicalism that promotes terrorism? Eek."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


In connection with the Catholic Church speaking out against the new health care law's requirement that health plans provide contraception coverage, there has been some outcry on the internet and in social media circles about churches staying out of the political arena.  It is not a new issue, but it has gained some recent steam.

In reality, churches are not prohibited from speaking out on anything of a political bent.  The Internal Revenue Code prohibits them from getting involved in a particular candidates campaign, donating to a campaign, or openly advocating a particular candidate for political office.  However, many issues overlap.  Things the church considers to be of spiritual concern may also be of political concern.  The church is within its rights to preach, teach or speak out in regard to its opinion on such subjects.  In fact, tax-exempt organizations are even permitted to engage in limited lobbying activity, so long as that activity does not rise to what the IRS defines as a "substantial" level.

More than anything, I would like to see consistency on both sides.  For example, were those who currently believe the church should be silent on the "political" issue of contraception equally incensed when the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote a letter in 2010 to the United States House of Representatives urging the passing of President Obama's proposed health care reform law (  Did they speak out against the United Church of Christ passing a resolution in 2005 aimed at "affirming marriage equality, affirming the civil rights of gay - of same-gender - couples to have their relationships recognized as marriages by the state, and encouraging our local churches to celebrate those marriages" (  Did they object when the United Methodist Church urged the passing of health care legislation in the House of Representatives and opposed an amendment that would prohibit including abortion services (

We cannot "have our cake and eat it too."  If churches must remain completely out of the political arena, then all churches must do so.  We cannot pick and choose when we decide to raise the objection based upon whether we happen to agree with the stance the church is taking in any particular instance.

This is more an observation about human nature than anything else.  That which we condemn when it stands in opposition to our views we are all too often willing to give a blind eye when it works in our favor.  This principle applies far beyond this particular illustration and it is my prayer that we can all strive to seek consistency in our daily lives.

Friday, March 16, 2012

God's Precious Pearl

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
Matthew 13:44-46

Many people probably think that Jesus used these two short parables to repeat an important point for emphasis: the kingdom of heaven should be of such great value to us that nothing we have can compare. That definitely is the lesson of the first parable, but there actually is a subtle shift in the second.  If you “blink” you may just miss it.

In the parable of the treasure in the field, Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like the treasure. Believers are symbolized by the man who finds it. But in the parable of the pearl Jesus does not compare the kingdom of heaven to the pearl (which would be parallel with the treasure in the first story) but rather the merchant!  Here, we are the pearl and God is the merchant looking for us! The first parable demonstrates what we must be prepared to give up for God, but the second shows what God was willing to give up for us!  The merchant sold everything he had to buy that pearl.  God the Father gave up his one and only son in order to “buy” us back from the price of sin.

When you are depressed or feeling unappreciated, remember that God, the great merchant, believes you have unimaginably high value. You are his precious fine pearl and he will always love you.

Friday, March 09, 2012

The Thorns in Our Flesh

My 9 year old daughter asked me last night why she was different.  Puzzled, I asked what she meant and she said she looks different than other children.  “Well, you’re definitely more beautiful than most 9 year old girls,” I replied.  “No Daddy,” she said, “I have two teeth that haven’t even come in all the way yet, and it’s been a very long time.”

Two of my precious little girl’s top teeth have not yet come down as low as the others, so her teeth do not all line up properly.  Apparently, this has been making her self-conscious.  So I pulled down her Bible and opened it up to 2 Corinthians 12:7b-12 where Paul said:

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

We also talked about 1 Samuel 16:7b:

“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

For those of you who don’t know, I have had a scar of sorts on my right pinky finger since the 4th grade.  It almost looks like a large callous on top of the joint closest to the tip.  I have been very self-conscious about it and usually try my best to hide it from public view (although I guess that cat is out of the bag now!).  I told my daughter, being completely honest, that I would love for it to go away.  I’ve prayed, I’ve even seen doctors, but it is still there and probably will be for the rest of my life.  Sometimes “thorns” like this help keep us humble.  They help remind us that no matter what our current culture tells us, the worth of a human being is not measured by their outward appearance.  What we see as outward “flaws” really are nothing of the kind.  If anything, they keep us focused on what is really important; what we look like on the inside.

I told my daughter that in all likelihood her teeth will eventually grow in the rest of the way.  If they don’t by the time she has all her adult teeth, we can ask her dentist about it.  But in the meantime remember that in the eyes of God, she is as beautiful as she could be, just as she is in the eyes of her Daddy.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

The Establishment Clause, Religious Expression and a "Christian Nation"

I personally do not care for the term “Christian Nation” because it implies a Church-State union that is contrary to the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution. History teaches us that whenever religion has become politicized, it has been abused. We see this phenomenon in the history of Christianity and in many Islamic nations today. However, I also believe that the public understands the Establishment Clause to be far broader than what was originally intended by the founding fathers.

Our nation was born out of rebellion against England, where the government established an official state religion (the Anglican “Church of England”) and openly discriminated against any contrary view. They recognized the dangers of such a state and ensured through the Constitution that this would not happen in the United States (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”).

However, this short, 10 word phrase has taken on such an expansive meaning in recent years that I think it behooves people to go back and look at the original text. The Establishment Clause has evolved into the phrase “separation of church and state.” This phrase actually does not appear anywhere in the Constitution. It first appeared in an 1802 letter that Thomas Jefferson (a Deist himself, not an orthodox Christian) wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association. It was first used by the United States Supreme Court in 1878, but did not “pick up steam” with that body until 1947, when it started to appear more regularly in Court opinions.  Most people understand the Establishment Clause by this phrase rather than by the text of the clause itself. As a result, we have created this cultural notion that even the mere utterance of anything sounding of a spiritual bent is off limits for anyone serving in an official capacity.

If history is our guide, we can come up with innumerable examples of public officials expressing their personal spiritual convictions while carrying out their official duties which the founding fathers did not see as being at odds with the Establishment Clause. In 1789, for example, George Washington began his proclamation instituting the first official Thanksgiving holiday with these words: “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor…”  In his second inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln said, “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet if God wills that it continues... until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid another drawn with the sword... so still it must be said that the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” On D-Day in 1944, Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity...”

Turning the clock ahead to 2004, Michael Newdow filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court claiming that the Establishment Clause bans even “acknowledgements of God (much less endorsements of God)” by public officials (the case was ultimately dismissed on grounds of mootness). In 2010, the Santa Rosa County School District in Florida faced a lawsuit by teachers, students, parents and volunteers for widespread violations, including barring students from saying “God bless,” prohibiting even bowing silently in personal prayer, keeping any religious organizations from renting school facilities and even trying to dictate how pastors operated private baccalaureate services inside the pastor’s own house of worship.  These are examples of the direction many people see our culture as heading.

Those raising objections to religious expression such as these may very well be a small yet vocal minority. My point is not that it is a majority opinion, only that it is an increasing trend. These issues did not exist when the Establishment Clause was first enacted, but in recent years we have seen a growing number of people (while still likely a minority) wanting to overly interpret the Establishment Clause this way.

The Establishment Clause was meant as a ban against the government establishing an official religion. It was never meant to restrict the free exercise and expression of spiritual beliefs by public officials (which the Free Exercise Clause protected). Yet we have come to believe that there is some absolute separation such that all public officials must behave in a completely secular manner. True, they cannot force their beliefs on others, but the Constitution never said we are protected from even hearing religious views with which we disagree.

It seems that our culture relegates spiritual truth claims to a second class status such that they do not enjoy the same freedom of expression as claims to scientific, economic or historical truth (at least culturally; people may be surprised at how much religious expression the courts allow). This may be understandable if spirituality was merely a matter of personal taste and preference. But religions such as Christianity claim a basis in historical fact. These types of claims should be open to discussion and free expression so that their merits or demerits can be properly and intelligently evaluated.

Many people respond that those seeking to curb religious expression are in the minority, whereas Evangelical Christianity has been attempting to enact legislation pushing its views in our country for many years.  Certainly it is true that many Evangelicals have pressed for laws that go too far into official advocacy for the Christian religion and do seem to be advancing the notion of a “Christian Nation” as I defined it, something I do not support. But in many respects I see this as a matter of “whose ox is gored” so to speak. All humans have a tendency to see the outliers with which they are being associated as a very vocal minority whereas those outliers aligned against them as holding to the majority viewpoint of their opponents. I am an “Evangelical” Christian under the true definition of that term (someone who believes in “evangelizing”; i.e., “relaying information about a particular set of beliefs to others who do not hold those beliefs”; Wikipedia). Everyone is “evangelical” on one issue or another. We all share our beliefs with people with whom we do not agree eventually.

I would proffer that most “Evangelical” Christians likely understand the proper scope of religious expression and are not seeking to establish a Christian State. But we as a culture have redefined the word “evangelical” to refer only to that minority group of Christians who engage in such advocacy. Of course if by definition you so narrow the parameters of a group to include only those who possess certain qualities, the “majority” of people in that group are going to possess the qualities utilized in your definition.

Here is my problem with excluding all religious talk from the public sphere and establishing a totally “secular” state with a firm wall prohibiting any religious expression (aside from the fact that if we were to examine the case law, such expression is not unconstitutional). When Albert Einstein first proposed his theory of General Relativity, the overwhelming consensus of astrophysicists at the time was that the universe was static. It was neither expanding nor contracting. However, the mathematical implications of his calculations were that the universe had to be doing one or the other. But Einstein himself was so wrapped up in the status quo that he could not bring himself to advance that this could be the case, so he introduced a “fudge factor” called the “cosmological constant” into his equations. It wasn’t until several years later when Edwin Hubble discovered the phenomenon known as “red shift” that the scientific community finally began to consider the possibility of an expanding universe. In the meantime, though, scientific advancement was delayed for several years beyond what it would have been if Einstein and the scientific community had just been willing to accept his initial calculations at face value and at least discuss the possibility of expansion.

Christianity makes a claim based upon historical fact. It says Jesus died and rose from the dead. If this is not true, Christianity is false. If it is true, then it has potentially widespread ramifications. Ultimately my point is this: it is a truth claim, just like Einstein’s (had he had the courage to make it). True Christian “evangelism” is not advocating a belief because it “feels good” or trying to force one person’s morality on another as a matter of coercive control (not to say that some people do not take these approaches). It is a historical analysis like any other. Did this event happen in history or not? Is the universe expanding or not? We cannot be afraid to discuss truth claims, and if one is permissible in the governmental arena, the other should as well.

A predisposition toward total secularism is in effect like placing a set of blinders on a horse. The horse can only see straight ahead, and we have prevented it in advance from even considering what is going on to the left or right. It is deciding in advance that certain truth claims may be discussed (i.e., scientific, economic, sociological, etc.) whereas other may not (i.e., spiritual). In the end I believe anyone, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan, New Age, Gnostic, Atheist or otherwise, should have the right to express their spiritual truth claims in public without the expectation that they will have to exchange their spiritual “hat” for their secular one the moment they walk through their office door.

That being said, there certainly need to be checks to make sure the government does not begin to create one official state religion to which all must subscribe, but that is precisely what the Establishment Clause was intended to address. Some would argue that by creating a completely secular state, the government is in effect establishing an official state religion: Atheism. After all, if belief in God can play no role in the government, then we are operating our government as if God does not exist. If this secular attitude is in turn required of all public officials, then we are requiring them to behave in their official capacity as if Atheism were true. This is why the Free Exercise Clause was included alongside the Establishment Clause.  If we truly look at the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses together, we can see where our Constitution does not require our public officials to leave their religion on the office doorstep.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

Jesus tells us to "love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44). On this Valentine's Day, everyone seems to think of those closest to them. In addition to that, wouldn't today be a great day to reach out and show love toward someone who would least expect it; someone with whom you have had some serious differences?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Moral Hatred?

I came across this picture on Facebook recently that several of my friends and relatives had "liked:"

Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed that these people I cared so deeply about could be sucked in by so obvious a straw man version of the moral argument.  For anyone interested in a genuine presentation of the variations on the moral argument for theism, I have written an article here:


I did not know the gentleman who had originally posted the picture, but he had made it open to comment by the public, so I decided to try to engage him in a discussion to at least point out the straw man nature of the argument in his post.  In fact many (but certainly not all) atheistic philosophers have conceded the point I was attempting to make; i.e., without a theistic god there can be no basis for objective moral laws.  This does not mean atheists cannot behave morally.  Of course they can.  Someone does not need to know the speed limit is 55 mph, for example, to be driving below the limit.  Even if the theist is correct and God's character is the source for morality, the atheist's personal moral code may still be largely in line with that objective moral law (in fact, Christian theology actually predicts why it would be so, but that is for another day).

By the time I joined in the conversation, it had already been going on for quite a while.  But what I got in return for my engagement was a reminder of what Jesus meant when He said, "I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world." John 17:14.  The responses the author addressed to me grew increasingly hostile.  Eventually he resorted to flat out insults and cursing.  I have decided to post them here (with the names changed) for two reasons: (1) to illustrate to Christians what they will occasionally face when sharing their faith so you are prepared to greet it, and (2) to also remind Christians that the degree of hostility I witnessed in this individual I have also unfortunately witnessed in many Christians online.  As you will see I reminded one Christian in the course of our discussion, Peter told us, "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15.

I am hoping by reprinting this discussion here it can serve as a reminder to people on both sides of discussions such as these as to how far more mileage can be made by behaving with decorum.  I found it ironic that the original purpose of this gentleman's post was that atheists can behave morally.  I agree with that comment, but I cannot help but think that he did not help his cause much by repeatedly and egregiously failing to even show the slightest amount of common courtesy.

Fair warning before you read this.  Other then the names of the parties involved, I have not changed anything.  I have left in all typographical errors, capitalization and punctuation errors, and have not edited anything for content.  Please be aware that I certainly do not condone the type of language used by this gentleman, but I felt that the only way to fully prepare people for what they will face is to be brutally honest and let you see it for yourself.

I have referred to the gentleman who posted the picture as "Mr. Smith."  His comments are in bold.  My comments are in italics, and the other Christian who briefly participated ("Mr. Jones") is in plain text.


Mr. Jones. I am sure you probably have come across some Christians who have told you atheists cannot be moral, but that is due to their misunderstanding of the arguments actually being made in the scholarly marketplace. The point is that on an atheistic worldview there can be no foundation for objective moral values. Morality cannot be derived from mere matter, so if materialism is true, objective morality is a mere illusion. Moral rules are nothing more than opinion. But this means that one person's moral code has no more claim to being "right" than anyone else's. There is no "right" morality, only opinion. So when the materialistic atheist makes a moral judgment (such as strongly implying, as you did in an earlier post, that it is morally wrong to murder, something you believe Christians would still be doing today if they had not been forcibly stopped), thence or she is not acting consistently with his or her own worldview. A consistent materialist would have to say, "It is not my preference that you murder, but I understand your opinion may be different and I have no basis to tell you otherwise." This does not mean an atheist cannot BEHAVE morally. After all, if objective morality exists, a person's opinion of morality can coincide with that objective standard even if he or she does not recognize that standard as the source. But a theistic worldview allows for a source for objective moral values whereas an atheistic worldview does not. As (an earlier commenter) correctly observed, this fact has been recognized and embraced by many leading atheistic philosophers. To the extent your picture creates a caricature of theism and creates the impression that the argument that atheists cannot behave morally is actually being circulated in scholarly circles, it is attacking a straw man and is therefore inaccurate. I thank you, though, for your willingness to open up this discussion. Obviously I believe these are very important topics that deserve our attention and respectful discussion as opposed to the "one liners" and ad hominem attacks that often characterize discussions such as these.

I apologize for the typographical errors, but I am not particularly skilled in typing on a smart phone.

@Mr. Smith: "honor your mother and father", "do not kill", "do not covet your neighbor's wife and property", etc. And let's not forget "love your neighbor as you love yourself." Yeah, the Bible is nothing but garbage and such concepts are too barbaric and disgusting to teach our children.
I'm not saying religions and some religious people don't have their problems but to say that there are *no* moral religious people is false. I mean, I suppose you could try to argue that Mother Teresa and Ghandi were not moral or not religious but I think you'd fail; they were both moral and reliogous. Where there are at least two counter examples, I think it is reasonable to believe that there are others.
@ Mr. Jones. "Always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have, but do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15. Your point is well made, but beware using too much sarcasm. It is difficult sometimes not to allow our emotions to get the better of us, especially when discussing something so dear to us. But we must be cautious of any tactics that tend to send the conversation toward antagonism or else all opportunity for a meaningful dialogue will be lost. People will reject the message because they reject the messenger.

@Ken: I was responding with the level of hostility I perceived in Mr. Smith's posts but you make a good point. To be honest, I wasn't finished my comment when I accidentally posted it and it's too much of a pain to try to undo that action on my mobile device.
quote"The point is that on an atheistic worldview there can be no foundation for objective moral values. Morality cannot be derived from mere matter"/quote
 there is No Foundation of any moral values on the bible. it has but 3 laws. don't kill, don't steal, and don't diddle your neighbors wife.
 aside from that, it is ok to beat your wife, beat bad kids, own slaves, coerce and lie to others to gain power, cause wars, lie to get donations, lie to enthrall soldiers, lie to keep people believing in god, on odd one for you, as for the honor thy mother/father commandments, Jesus himself said in Matthew 10:35-36;
 "For I Have Come To Turn Man Against His Father, And Daughter Against Her Mother, A Daughter In-Law Against Her Mother In-Law-- A Mans Enemies Will Be The Members Of His Own Household."

the bible contradicts the only 3 decent commandments so often, it is as if they are not even there, or they do not apply to the people in the bible.

An Atheistic world view would actually be MORE moral and dignified than you think. as proven above, morals were not derived from religion or bibles. morality and decency comes built into us.
"to coerce good people to do evil, that takes religion"-Steven Weinberg
 to prove this point, I would like to point out all the animals of the jungles and forests that break up fights within their own group.
 if you honestly think morality is just opinion, then obviously you have never felt your heart drop witnessing something tragic.. like loss of a child, or seeing someone immorally killed. you can feel it. That is morality. Not god.

quote"this fact has been recognized and embraced by many leading atheistic philosophers. To the extent your picture creates a caricature of theism..."/quote
 "leading atheistic philosophers.. umm what?
 did you really just lump all philosophers that are not religious all into one lump sum and call act like they sit around circles every weak discussing philosophy like religions do?
 You are Sadly Mistaken Mr. Minister.
 there are No Leading Atheistic Philosophers. Never have been, Never will be.
 ... you are obviously trying desperately to defend the sanctity and dignity of your religion, whichever one that may be, but I digress, Atheists Do No Exist.
 calling people who do not believe in your god, Atheist, is like saying you have a habit of Not-Smoking. or like saying your Hobby is Not Collecting Stamps.
 you are obviously lost on quite a few ideals.. likely misled by the lying churchs you have attended. but if you wish, I will point out as many of your screw ups in human morality I can.
 in the meantime, watch this for homework ;)​watch?v=8QWwzT4ulkA

this one will give you a quick view of the world without christians ;)

I really do not have the time to school yet another christian on these matters, so I will merely link you to videos with more information than I can toss up at will ;)

saying offensive things should never be anyones worry.
offense is only taken by people who demand respect. people who demand respect can suck cock.

not to mention, freedom of speech does not address offensive speech. therefor, I disregard anything anyone takes as offensive. I really don't care ;)

@ Mr. Jones. The golden rule is found in virtually every moral system in recorded history. Some version of it, either phrased in the positive or the negative, can be found in Egyptian, Jewish, Norse, Babylonian, Hindu, Chinese, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Greek and of course Christian moral codes. The point of your original picture was to defend the moral behavior of non-theists. For the record, I agree with you that non-theists can behave perfectly morally and some great acts of altruism have been carried out by people who do not believe in a theistic god. Yet I wonder if, when someone was responding to you, you would appreciate being told that you were “misled” by your “lying” instructors, you are “obviously lost on quite a few ideals,” that your discussion partner will “point out as many of your screw ups” as he or she could or that you need to be “schooled” and given “homework?” I will not repeat what you said in a more recent comment about people who demand respect. I wonder if you were in a court of law and the judge demanded respect, if you would say the same thing to him or her. That being said, you may feel free to use whatever tone you wish in responding to my points. It will not bother me. I am simply trying to make a friendly suggestion that if your goal here is to actually to convince anyone of the truth of your position, your overall tone can often be more powerful than the content of what you say, so you may consider toning down the sarcasm somewhat. The choice is yours, of course. It makes little difference to me either way.

In an earlier comment to another individual you stated, “God is a generic term bro. but thinking about it, why did you jump in screaming its an attack on christianity?” I agree with you that your original picture was aimed at god, not specifically Christianity. Accordingly, my comments to you never mentioned the Bible or Jesus Christ, only general theism. Yet you responded to me by stating, “there is No Foundation of any moral values on the bible.” I never said there was. That actually would be a completely separate discussion (which I would be happy to have, but to launch into it today would sidetrack us from the moral argument which your original picture is addressing). I argued that “a theistic worldview allows for a source for objective moral values whereas an atheistic worldview does not.” You shifted the focus of our discussion from general theism to the more specific Christianity (or perhaps including Judaism as well, having invoked “the Bible”). This is what you apparently criticized the individual with whom you previously spoke for doing. To be clear, I will attempt to keep our focus on theism. Christianity is a particular brand of theism, true. If theism is false, Christianity is obviously false as well. But if theism is true, we would have to examine several other steps in the argument to bring us particularly to Christian theism.

You also stated, “there are No Leading Atheistic Philosophers. Never have been, Never will be.” Respectfully, I believe David Hume, Jean-Paul Sartre, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell and J.L. Mackie would disagree with you, to give only a few examples. I would refer you to Nietzsche’s famous “Parable of the Madman.” That being said, you seem to disapprove of the term “atheist.” You, like many, believe that atheism is not an affirmative stance but rather simply an unwillingness to believe in something for which you see insufficient evidence. Your position is very similar to Sam Harris here. While I do not accept this position, to explore this path would sidetrack us, and I do not wish to lose focus. So from now on I will use the term “materialist” instead if that is acceptable.

Now to your main point: “An Atheistic world view would actually be MORE moral and dignified than you think. as proven above, morals were not derived from religion or bibles. morality and decency comes built into us.” “if you honestly think morality is just opinion, then obviously you have never felt your heart drop witnessing something tragic.. like loss of a child, or seeing someone immorally killed. you can feel it. That is morality. Not god.”

I never said morality is just an opinion. Quite the contrary actually. Under a theistic worldview there is a foundation for objective morality. Under a materialistic worldview, however, there is not, and only under that worldview did I contend that morality would be nothing more than opinion.

I actually wholeheartedly agree with your statement that “morality and decency comes built into us.” The key question is, “Why?” How did it get there? You are correct that morality is something we feel. Nobody can witness a brutal slaying of an innocent person and keep themselves from responding that it was a morally atrocious act for which the perpetrator deserves to be punished.

My question to you, then, is this. Let us assume for the sake of argument that you are correct. Materialism is the sum total of reality. Everything we see is the result of time plus matter plus chance, so to speak. If that is so, how did this moral sense, which you concede we all feel, become implanted into us? More importantly, what makes your or my moral sense “right” and Hitler’s, for example, “wrong?” On what naturalistic basis can we conclude that Hitler was immoral and we are morally right for calling him so?

I often use the example of a law book. Suppose I walk up to a gentleman and punch him in the face with no provocation. That person believes that I was legally wrong for doing so. I, however, insist that I was legally justified. We go back and forth for hours before someone pulls out a law book and we look to it to find the answer. Lo and behold, it says that I was legally wrong. I may genuinely believe that I was legally correct, but that does not change the fact that there is this objective standard governing us (i.e., the law book) and according to that book I was wrong. As a result, I am punished.

Take this example now to the moral law. Suppose the person I hit says that I was morally wrong for doing so. I insist I was morally right. Where is the materialistic “law book” to which we can turn to resolve this dispute? If all we are left with is the differing opinions of the masses, we have no objective standard. By definition, an objective standard must transcend those who are subject to it. Where do you find that transcendence in materialism? Hume, Sartre and Mackie all concede it is not there.

If you, or anyone else still reading, is interested in researching the variety of moral arguments that have been raised by theists, I have written an article on the subject:


It goes into far more detail than a discussion on Facebook permits and discusses both theistic and materialistic positions.

Thank you again for the use of this forum to discuss these issues. You have been very kind in allowing everyone, including those who disagree with you, to express their positions and for that you should be commended.

@Ken Coughlan; sorry, but none of those religions can be called a "moral system" as they all demand complete obedience of their followers. that is not moral.
 "For the record, I agree with you that non-theists can behave perfectly morally and some great acts of altruism have been carried out by people who do not believe in a theistic god"

For the record, I can agree that Some religious leaders throughout history can be deemed "moral" but not very many. Morality did not come from any religion at any point in history.
 I recently watched a documentary where they were studying the effects of arguments among groups of monkeys and apes. to your dismay, none of them put up with killing each other. most even broke up petty disputes before they got out of hand. it was all very concious thought.
 funny you religious people seem to think that your are the moral guidline for humanity, yet throughout history religious leaders have been guilty of more genocide, racial intolerance, petty hatred, and arrogance than any non-theist leader to this date.

(also, Judges deserve respect. they worked their ass off for that position. he does not demand respect, he deserves it.)

as for your second paragraph;
 "I argued that a theistic worldview allows for a source for objective moral values whereas an atheistic worldview does not."
 sorry, but there is nothing "objective" out any religions. I would love to see you remove all the immoral acts in the bible/qur'an/torah (I tend to lump all religious texts together as bibles my bad) or even fix the wrong/contradictory parts.
 the (holy text) is infallible. meaning that regardless of what it's followers seem to think, their bible is the word of god and Must be treated as such. atleast the Jews have the balls to stick to their story.

third paragraph; there aren't. I argue the existance of the word "atheist" as it's not only derogatory, it is redundant. as I pointed out, it's like saying my habit is not smoking. those philosophers are just that. philosophers. nothing more or less.

"I didn't say morality was an opinion, only under these circumstance would they be an opinion."
 you are not very good at this are you?
 "Under a theistic worldview there is a foundation for objective morality. Under a materialistic worldview, however, there is not, and only under that worldview did I contend that morality would be nothing more than opinion."
 as I pointed out, in religion there is nothing objective. everything is written in stone. and disobedience is the upmost wrong you can ever do. that is not objective morality. that is subjective morality.
under a materialistic (atheist) world view morality would encompass so much more than religions ever could. because Atheists, alike science, allow for future corrections and additions. whereas religions, do not.

"I actually wholeheartedly agree with your statement that morality and decency comes built into us. The key question is, Why? How did it get there?"
 No you don't. you believe some asswipe with a god complex put it there. whereas in the scientific rhealm, you can watch as things like that evolve through time and species. if you open you eyes that is.

seventh paragraph; "time+matter+chance" is not what the scientific rhealm advocates. that is what you are told the scientific community thinks, but it is wrong.
 this moral sense came built into us because if it didn't exist, no animals would exist. they would eradicate themselves and humans never would've evolved. in any society, if you kill more people/critters than are being conceived that society/species is doomed to exinction.
funny you bring up Hitler... why does every theist bring up Hitler like he's some big example of atheist hatred. when the guy was roman catholic and hated the idea of evolution.
 "I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator.
 - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Vol. 1 Chapter 2"
 religious "moral codes" often allow for this type of hatred.

eighth paragraph; funny you bring up that type of morality, as no where in the ten commandments or various other religious moral codes does it ever bring up random shit like that. that is one of the many things the ten commandments left out.
"if this guys isn't my neighbor, I can punch him out without provocation." this type of justification is what allowed for the crusades and various other genocidal acts perpetrated by various religions.

"Where is the materialistic law book to which we can turn to resolve this dispute?"
 It's called Common Law. and you can find one at any local library or you can stop and ask your local police if your predetermined conduct is allowed in society.

as for a rebuttal from me; none of what you have said disputes my picture at all. religious people seem to think they are the beginning of all human morality. which they are Not.

and you should really stop using this debate as a medium to spam your religious propagandist website. as the Op, I feel it would be my duty to delete them. spam is immoral.

Mr. Jones.  Thank you again for the opportunity to speak on these issues.  Because this is your post and you do not seem to want to hear much more for me I will only make a few closing remarks.  Besides, I do not see the purpose to rehashing the same ground we have already been over.

The moral argument does not claim any “religion,” as you repeatedly refer to, is the source for objective morality.  The argument is that morality finds its source in the character of God, not in the human moral preachings of any religious sect.  Again, we are discussing an argument for theism in general, yet you keep returning to individual religious systems.  If you are interested in learning what the moral argument actually says, I have already referred you to the article.  If not, you are certainly well within your rights to continue to knock down straw men, but this will bring you no closer to truth.

I also never said Hitler was an atheist, although I believe there is strong historical evidence for the possibility that his religious comments were more a deliberate design to appease the Catholic Church into complacency (especially given his obvious influence by Nietzche). However, that is neither here nor there.  I only used Hitler as an example of someone evil.  If you prefer another example, interchange “Charles Manson” with “Hitler.”  The logic of the argument remains the same.

I am aware of how to find a legal answer to the assault dilemma.  My question to you was where to find the MORAL answer.  You referred me to the common law.  By this I can only assume you are equating the common law to the moral law.  The common law changes, however.  Things legal at one time will become illegal at another.  It is not a fixed standard.  Therefore, if you truly believe the answer to my question is to refer me to the common law, then that again leads back to my point: under a materialistic worldview there is no such thing as objective moral values.

Anthony D’Angelo said , “Never let your persistence and passion turn into stubbornness and ignorance.”  You are clearly passionate and persistent in your beliefs.  In and of themselves, there is nothing inherently wrong with these qualities.  However, you do not appear to be familiar with even the most basic naturalistic philosophical arguments to support your worldview, to say nothing of the opposing theistic arguments.  You do not need to disagree with everything that comes out of a theist’s mouth just because a theist said it.  As I already mentioned, many of the best philosophers in history who would join you in your rejection of religious systems and the existence of God have conceded the point I have been making.  They do not see it as fatal to their worldview, although it does serve to awaken certain harsh realities.

Your disdain for all things religious has guided every response you present, even when it takes you down a path different from that being discussed.   You repeatedly direct the discussion to what you perceive as the “evils” of religion rather than talking about the subject at hand; i.e., whether materialism can adequately provide a source for objective morality.  Even if every religious system in existence is wrong, materialism is not necessarily correct by default.  It is possible all religious systems AND materialism are equally wrong.  The truth may lie in some (currently unknown) other theistic-based system.  At a minimum you must affirmatively demonstrate that your worldview is internally consistent and has adequate explanatory power before anyone is persuaded it should be accepted.

If you wish to become seriously involved in discussions in this field (rather than simply posting catch phrases that are sure to serve as a rallying cry to like-minded people but do little to convince any genuine seekers to your cause), I would encourage you to begin by reading J.L. Mackie’s “The Miracle of Theism: Arguments For and Against the Existence of God.”  Professor Mackie was one of the leading atheistic philosophers of the 20th century and his work is respected on “both sides of the aisle.”

Thank you again for your time.  Unless invited, I will post no more.

@Ken Coughlan
I never made any attempts at ending our conversation.

morality cannot possibly have anything to do with the "character of god" as god is anything But what we humans consider moral.
in Richard Dawkins words;
... "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."

This is not a character anyone should be basing morality off of.

I never said you said Hitler was an atheist, I said most christians always involve that retard somehow.

Common human laws change because we, as well as everything around us, evolve. what was true 2000 years ago, has no relevance today. that means that your morality is derived from people 2000 years ago. who wouldn't have had a chance at understanding the types of laws humans need this day and age. sure, punching someone for no reason was wrong back then, just as it is now. but things need to be updated. ie; hacking. according to biblical law, I can hack anyone I wish. (without stealing that is) there are numerous examples where human morality needed updating. but that is not allowed under religious rule. (if god didn't want us to do that, he would've told us so) so we can do anything we wish, so long as we don't kill, steal, cheat on spouses, or piss off our neighbors.
Religion is outdated garbage. has no relevance in this day and age.

"many of the best philosophers in history who would join you in your rejection of religious systems and the existence of God have conceded the point I have been making."
they have conceded that for morality to exist, there must be a god?
I think you are lying to me now.. stop it.
I would like you to go ask Richard Dawkins that question. or Stephan Hawkins. or Albert Einstein.. you sir, are full of shit.

"Even if every religious system in existence is wrong, materialism is not necessarily correct by default."
Materialism is Not all there is to the scientific explanation of the universe.
quote from wiki;"To many philosophers, 'materialism' is synonymous with 'physicalism'. However, materialists have historically held that everything is made of matter, but physics has shown that gravity, for example, is not made of matter in the traditional sense of an inert, senseless substance, in which extension, figure, and motion do actually subsist So it is tempting to use physicalism to distance oneself from what seems the historically important but no longer scientifically relevant thesis of materialism."

I tend to side with psysicists rather than philosophers.
and to add to "is not necessarily correct by default" I argue the same thing to religious people all the time. when scientists say "I do not know" religious ideologists often cry "That must mean god did it!" and science cannot argue insanity. so the "god did it" crap is ignored until future scientists find the answer that first scientist didn't know. then, of course, those religious folk are no where to be found to retract their arrogant statement "that means god did it"..
"You repeatedly direct the discussion to what you perceive as the evils of religion rather than talking about the subject at hand"
ummm yea.. human morality must not be allowed to mask the evils of religion. religious people seem to think that their bibles are moral. but when you read it cover to cover, your left with much more death and destruction than any morality.

whao.. your last paragraph there is kind of insulting.. I have used no catch phrases, in fact, the arguments you are using are centuries old and have been disproven numerous times, but for some reason, you still seem to think god equates to morality (via his character).. I am not rally crying anything. I care not for convincing anyone anything. I care about the lies being spewed forth by people like you.
I've read many books on debates between reality and theists. and frankly, I am sick of them. they all end the same. reality wins, religious people give no shit and keep on believing. some religious people shift how they think about the bible, ie; some approve of evolution, most don't. this does nothing to sway the fact that god isn't real.
one quote I have always remembered..
"evil people do evil things.
good people do good things.
but it takes religion to coerce good people into doing evil things."
that is my type of philosophy ;)
Mr. Jones:

Most of the points you raised in your most recent comment did not deal with the matter at hand (again substituting the beliefs of particular religions for the general notion of theism).

I will only provide some references fo...r your future reading, if you are interested, in non-theistic philosophers who concede objective moral values would be evidence for the existence of a theistic god and therefore contend that morality must be subjective. Again, the point here is not that non-theists cannot be moral. Nor is it that "morality" in general cannot exist without a theistic god. The point is that "objective" moral values cannot exist without a theistic god. Without such a god, morality must be subjective.

J.L. Mackie:
"If we adopted moral objectivism, we should have to regard the relations of supervenience which connect values and obligations with their natural grounds as synthetic; they would then be in principle something that a god might conceivably create; and since they would otherwise be a very odd sort of thing, the admitting of them would be an inductive ground for admitting also a god to create them. There would be something here in need of explanation, and a being with the power to create what lies outside the bounds of natural plausibility or even possibility might well be the explanation we require...If we adopted instead a subjectivist or sentimentalist account of morality, this problem would not arise."
J.L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism: Arguments for and against the existence of God (Oxford: Clarendon, 1982), 118.

David Hume:
"There may be four hypotheses framed concerning the first causes of the universe: that they are endowed with perfect goodness, that they have perfect malice, that they are opposite and have both goodness and malice, that they have neither goodness nor malice. Mixed phenomena can never prove the two former unmixed principles. And the uniformity and steadiness of general laws seem to oppose the third. The fourth, therefore, seems by far the most probable."
David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (London: Penguin, 1779, 1990), 122.

Even Richard Dawkins' theory of reciprocal altruism reaching a critical frequency in a population is an attempt at explaining morality subjectively. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Mariner, 2006, 2008), 247.

Of course, all of these positions commit the genetic fallacy (confusing epistemology with ontology; i.e., how people arrive at a belief with the truth of that belief), but that is not the point here. I would strongly encourage you to read the resources I have cited and become versed in the moral arguments, both from a theistic and non-theistic perspective, before forming an opinion or assuming that the arguments against your position are equivalent to an easily dismissed straw man.

I do not expect to have convinced you to become a theist in the course of our dialogue. That was never really the point anyway. My goal has only been to point out that your picture introduced a false straw man argument, which of course is easily dismissed (that is the point of a straw man), and instead introduce you to the existence of the genuine argument and encourage you to do the research yourself and come to your own opinions on the matter. If nothing else, I hope you will recognize that I am not "lying" to you. I have been attempting to simply steer you in the direction of the genuine argument and the very thought-provoking points made on both sides.

Thank you again for the opportunity to speak. I wish you well.

you aren't doing your homework Ken
Dawkins stance on morality.
quit quote mining and lying to people.

if your god created morality to be one set of rules that would withstand the pressures of human futures, it would be much longer than ten commandments, and would not entail obedience as the first 4 rules of morality.
your religion is Wrong ...Mr. Coughlan.
not only is it wrong, it is absolutely IMMORAL.
teaching children lies about evolution is wrong and immoral.
lying to people to keep them in church is wrong and immoral.
stoning disobedient women is wrong and immoral.
demanding absolute obedience from anyone, is wrong and immoral.
Religion, in itself, is Wrong And Immoral.
in the words of Christopher Hitchens;
"I am absolutely convinced, that the main source of hatred in the world; is Religion."
human decency evolved along with everything else on this planet. if you think god is the source for all human morality, then why didn't he teach his children back 2000 years ago, everything we know today as morality?
why did he force us thr...ough a trial and error stage before we learned that it is wrong to enslave fellow humans?
why does the bible give instructions on how to abuse your slave without killing him?
there is No Morality in religion. there never was.

Thank you again, Mr. Jones. This post is your "basement," so to speak, and I appreciate your generosity in giving me the opportunity to speak.

Again, your comments focus on the "set of rules" allegedly established in Christianity, the t...eachings of particular religions over the years, evolution, etc. This is again shifting the focus from the point of our discussion: Can physicalism (a term of which I believe you approve) provide a source for objective morality? You have yet to present an affirmative case for it. Instead, all of your comments have attacked religion. Even assuming you could disprove your opponent's position, that does not mean you have proven the veracity of your own.

I do not see any new points being raised, so I think this is probably a good time to bring our public discussion to a close. In public arenas such as this, the parties to a discussion are often more concerned with winning points in the eyes of their observers than they are with having a genuine conversation. Neither is willing to concede even the smallest ground for fear of how it will make them look to others. If you are interested in continuing our discussion, feel free to e-mail me at and I would be happy to continue the conversation between the two of us. That way neither of us will be subject to these pressures and perhaps we can openly discuss your objections and both come to understand each other better.

Thank you again, sir.
and quite thanking me like I am permitting you to speak. freedom of speech is freedom of speech. and I am one that dares not oppose that freedom.

come to think of it, you haven't answered any of my questions directed at you, I don't think you have even read any of my responses to you... are you here merely to try and defend the fact that religious people claim that without god there can be no morality?
and this time, answer my damn question instead of posting insanely long responses that have nothing to do with what I asked you.

I have answered that question multiple times. My position has been that without a theistic god (whether that be the God of Christianity, Judaism, or some other theistic god unlike either of these), there can be no OBJECTIVE morality. Subjective moral rules may still exist. Even in a theistic universe people can act according to the objective moral law even if they do not acknowledge the existence of the theistic god behind it; even if they think that all morality is subjective, their subjective beliefs may line up with the objective morality they do not acknowledge exists.

With that, I will be drawing our discussion to a close. I will not be posting here again. If anyone would like to discuss this question with me further, my contact information was included previously. I enjoyed our discussion, Mr. Jones, and look forward to the opportunity should our paths cross on Facebook again.
well then... you can direct yourself back at the picture.
With a theistic deity, there can be No Morality. Morality means YOU decided not to do something evil, religious morality means YOU think your god would not approve of your actions, fear hell, you fear losing your afterlife paradise, and that is what makes you stop. that is not morality, that is being threatened into doing good.
most of the deities I've ever heard of, are sadistic jealous assholes. where you claim to be morality, I can see none. and I don't give a shit how many "atheists" you can dig up that will conceded to "without god, there can be no "objective" morality."
I've even shown you how it is theorized that morality evolved along with humans and animals.. but you disregard that. you keep bouncing back to "my god this, my god that... blah blah blah.."
Your god is a fuckhead. and if he did exist, would do the planet a world of GOOD by killing himself.

I was true to my word and have not posted again.  To date, I have not heard from this gentleman on my e-mail.  I hope if nothing else comes out of this discussion it can serve as a reminder to us all, no matter which side of the debate you are on, that if you are trying to defend your own morality (or that of God), it is a good idea to do your best to behave morally while doing so.  God bless.