Answer to Rosemary

Normally, I answer comments in comments, but due to the length of Rosemary’s comment in this post, I decided to do it as a separate blog entry. Rosemary is way off base, and has no concept of sarcasm. Let’s see if we can make some sense of her comments.

She opens:

You guys really should do some research on the people you are trying to influence. Going into a discussion with a set of false notions about the beliefs and values of those you are talking to just makes you sound ridiculous. Even when you think you have it right you prove to others that you don’t. Cory, pro-choicers will not take you seriously if you refer to abortion as “exercising reproductive rights”. You need to understand what the real issues are, not just the ones you have taught to think are the real issues.

I have done research on the people that I’m trying to influence. I read more atheist blogs than Christian blogs, and I’ve read atheist tomes like God is not Great. As a matter of fact, I’m off to the library today to see if they have The God Delusion, as I’ve been meaning to read that one for a while now.

As to the specific charge of pro-choicers not taking me seriously when I say “exercising reproductive rights,” I borrowed that phrase from VJack of Atheist Revolution. His position is smack between pro-life and pro-choice, and I know (based on his wide readership) that pro-choicers take him seriously.

But there’s a deeper issue here. I never meant for anyone to take that sentence seriously because it was sarcasm. Now, since Rosemary later refers to an episode of House, I know that she appreciates sarcasm, at least from fellow atheists.

You will make no headway with convinced atheists, especially if they are ex-Christian, if you insist that atheists are less moral than Christians, that all moral values come from the Jewish or Christian god (Yahweh and Jesus, respectively) or that moral values are absolute and unchanging.

Perhaps I should include a small parenthetical in my Mission Statement, because the following fact doesn’t seem obvious to anyone: I am not targeting convinced atheists. I don’t believe that dialogue on the existence of God is possible with such people. My targets are honest seekers who are open to the truth of the Christian faith. I frequent atheist sites and refute their material because I want honest seekers to see that there are good answers available to the slander that is inevitably located on those sites.

I don’t mean to suggest that atheists are less moral than Christians. What I am trying (unsucessfully) to get across is that atheists have no foundation for their morality and are thus forced to borrow it from the Judeo-Christian worldview.

I further don’t believe that all morals come from the Bible, only that the Bible is the sole infallible source of morals. As for morals being absolute and unchanging, I have yet to see a convincing argument that the are not absolute. Let’s see what you have:

When I was a young woman it was solely Catholics who were steadfastly against abortion. Protestants were generally not. These days the fundamentalist streams of Protestant Christianity have forgotten this past and now identify with the Catholics.

But why would that be? Perhaps because the Bible has always been against abortion and it took Protestant Christianity longer to recognize that. The problem with Protestantism is that it lacks a central authority, and is sometimes slow to catch the clear teaching of the Bible. That statement does not imply that I believe in the infallibility of the teaching magistrate of the Catholic Church, only that Protestantism lacks a central teaching authority.

Similarly, divorce was viewed as deeply immoral by all Christian groups. Protestant Christian ministers who married divorced people lost their jobs, an English Prince lost a throne and lived in exile in order to marry an American divorcee, an English Princess was forbidden to marry the man she loved because he was divorced and children like us were forced to live in loveless and violent marriages because it was so difficult for parents to get a divorce. Times have changed. These days the Baptists have a divorce rate which is way greater than the rate for atheists and the more religious the person, the greater their risk of divorce.

This is where my Research and Presentation teacher would ask for what we call a “citation.” If you’re going to make a bald assertion, you’d better back it up with some data. Because I’ve read where other atheists have asserted that the divorce rate is the same for religious as the non-religious (also with no citation).

Even with no citations, you have successfully shown that humans do not live up to the moral code in the Bible, but you have failed to show how that moral code is mutable. Again, all you have managed to show is that we fallible humans malign the code. Please show where the code itself has changed.

Now let’s look at the charge that atheists have no moral code and are therefore more immoral than Christians.

I never made that charge. Nice strawman.  We’ll skip that part. And not just because it makes me uncomfortable. Without citations, I don’t know where you got your data or how credible it is. For all I know, you made that stuff up.

But I noticed you have not cited studies that show a causal relationship between atheism and suicide, nor the recent Time Magazine cover story on religion and healing. For example:

Religiously unaffiliated subjects had significantly more lifetime suicide attempts and more first-degree relatives who committed suicide than subjects who endorsed a religious affiliation. Unaffiliated subjects were younger, less often married, less often had children, and had less contact with family members. Furthermore, subjects with no religious affiliation perceived fewer reasons for living, particularly fewer moral objections to suicide. In terms of clinical characteristics, religiously unaffiliated subjects had more lifetime impulsivity, aggression, and past substance use disorder. No differences in the level of subjective and objective depression, hopelessness, or stressful life events were found. (source)

Moving on:

Convinced atheists (that is, those who have arrived at this position as the result of prolonged and careful thought and study) do not choose atheism because it allows them to carry on an immoral life-style. In fact, the majority of atheists did not choose to become atheists at all. It simply crept up on them.

I’ve never suggested that anyone chose atheism because it allows them to live an immoral lifestyle. It just interests me that the most vocal of atheism’s proponents usually say that “atheism is freedom,” and I wonder what sort of freedom that they refer to.

You may, however, find a superficially similar position to the one you posit among young people whose default atheism amounts to a rebellion against the religion of their childhood. This is part of growing up and finding your own identity.

I believe that atheism is rebellion against God, yes.

Most youths find their way out of this before they hit 25. Others end up harming themselves and others before being faced with a crunch time experience. This sub-group is a lucrative mine for religious conversions to faiths which impose a moral code as part of group acceptance. Others end up in the rooms of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, welfare officers and corrections personnel. Of course, some people never outgrow this stage of development. These are the ones who think that “freedom” involves using foul language at every opportunity and who reject the good of the many in favor of the belief that it is their inalienable right to act only in the interests of themselves and those they choose to care for. This may eventually become a thought-out position but is not representative of the majority of mature atheists.

I would make the same argument against Fred Phelps and his ilk at Westboro Baptist Church or your example of African churches that torture witches being called Christians, and that arguement would be rejected by you and every atheist I’ve ever encountered. So am I supposed to accept your argument?

Convinced atheists do not choose to reject god. They simply find that they can no longer logically, and in good conscience, support such a belief. It is a matter of intellectual integrity. Former beliefs are usually relinquished reluctantly and often with considerable pain.

I disagree. The apostle Paul makes the argument that God is easily perceived in the things that he created. It leaves people without excuse. People know that there is a God in their hearts, and they choose to suppress and reject that knowledge for various reasons, usually emotional rather than intellectual.

Convinced atheists do not hate god. You cannot hate something which you have finally conceded is extremely unlikely to exist and, if it does, almost certainly does not exist in any of the forms attested to by one or more the vast array of Christian sects, denominations, congregations, schools of thought or personal revelations.

Again, I disagree. Many examples of literature can be brought forth from Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Dan Barker, and others that show they do, in fact, hate God. Whether they believe in him or not, their literature makes it clear that they hate him.

Convinced atheists are rarely atheists purely because they lack knowledge of Christianity, the fellowship of “real” Christians or an experience of a relationship with Jesus. Many atheists have a better understanding of the Bible than not only the average Christian but often the average evangelical preacher as well. There is a sizeable proportion of newly vocal atheists who have theological training, have run Christian ministries or have taught in institutions which train clergy or pastors. Some are still working as ministers or teaching theology because this is the only marketable skill which they possess and/or they do not have the financial or emotional resources to get out and/or they cannot get out of this double life without harming their family in some way. Theirs is a very difficult and precarious situation. You would be surprised just how many people like this there are.

I’m not arguing.

Convinced atheists do not have lives which are devoid of meaning and purpose. Life is what they make it. It is precious because it is the only one they have.

Thank you for admitting my point: there is no transcendent value to anything–life is what you make of it in atheism. But the same goes for right and wrong, good and evil. The argument that I tried to get across is that there is no foundation for morality in atheism.

Finally, convinced atheists come in many packages and have a wide variety of viewpoints, moral positions, political affiliations and ideological leanings. Some are nihilists (Nietzsche); most are not. Some are communists; most are not. Some are libertarians; most are not. Many are humanists; some are not. Many are liberal; some are not. Many are highly educated; many are not.

When you can understand and accept all this then, and only then, will you be ready to talk to an atheist and have him or her take you seriously. Until then you are trying to converse with people who don’t actually exist.

I do understand that. I don’t think that atheists understand us very well. I could make that point now, but I hardly think that this is the place. Just glance some of my other writings, especially the ones critical of atheists. I think that you’ll see the pattern emerge.

I rather suspect that this homily was all a waste of time. I strongly suspect that you will be unable to relinquish your false ideas about what an atheist is because your faith will not allow you to reject this picture for the reality. I am reminded of a quotation from the TV series, HOUSE MD: “If you could reason with religious people there would be no religious people.” While, I would be happy to be proved wrong I think the changes are pretty low. What do you think?

About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!

Posted on March 23, 2009, in Apologetics, Morality and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. shamelesslyatheist

    “What I am trying (unsucessfully) to get across is that atheists have no foundation for their morality and are thus forced to borrow it from the Judeo-Christian worldview.” It’s very simple why you are failing.

    You’re wrong.

    Please read at the very least Michael Shermer’s The Science of Good & Evil. Better still if you also read Marc Hauser’s Moral Minds. You really don’t have a leg to stand on in your claim. The science of ethics has already demolished your argument.

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