Religion, Uncategorized

Answers from an Atheist

Sometimes I’m asked to write something, and it’s just too much work not to publish somewhere. A theology professor submitted a few questions for me for his class through my role as a Sunday Assembly organizer. Here are my responses:

“1) Among atheists (as a broad and diverse group of people, of course), what is usually of most frequently deemed or held to be most sacred?”

It would depend on what you mean by “sacred”. As a religious concept, defined as godly or religious, the term is useless to an atheist. I you simply mean what is “important” to an atheist, see question #2.

I don’t find the word very useful except for referring to what other people consider sacred, but that is not to say that I don’t value things highly. In fact, I find it remarkable how trifling religious people appear to value things that they would consider “sacred”. If I believed that my actions determined the destiny of my immortal soul, or that the creator of the universe was watching and commanding me to act, either as a tyrant or benevolent father, I would think of little else. My momentary life would be consumed by religion, and I am very glad that there is no good reason to believe that any of it is true.

“2) What is the essence of what someone would need to do, or generally does do, in order to live their life in accord with the most common beliefs held by atheists?”

The only way to be a bad atheist is to believe in a god. If you ask someone if they believe in a god, and they say “yes”, they are a theist. If they say anything else, including “no”, “I don’t know”, or “maybe”, they are an atheist. Your question implies that you already know that, but it’s worth repeating. There are principles and philosophies that most atheists would agree with, but they have nothing to do with the fact that they are atheists, only that they are human. The ideas of “living in accord with ____”, holding our neighbors to certain standards, or being held to certain standards by our neighbor also have nothing to do with being an atheist. Such standards would include individual rights, property rights, freedom of expression, freedom from oppression, personal security, and privacy, all of which I would expect of my neighbors equally, regardless of their religious beliefs. I value free exchanges of ideas and the scientific investigation of objective reality. I believe that it’s important to openly criticize all ideas to find the best ones. I even wish to protect the rights of people to hold and express bad ideas as long as they do not infringe upon the fundamental rights of others.

“3) What argument, reasons, or evidence is usually offered to support that your answers to numbers 1 and 2 above are actually true? (By which I don’t mean what evidence is there that your answers are statistically accurate. I mean what justification is there that the beliefs about what is sacred and moral are true. For example, when I sent a similar question to Christian organizations, I was asking what arguments, etc. they had that think God/Jesus, as most sacred, actually exists.)”

I think the parallel to your Christian question would seek atheist arguments that religious claims are insufficient to warrant belief. IronChariots.org is a good resource, an attempt to catalog the long list. Since they are merely rebuttals to religious arguments, there are far too many to count. Theistic arguments come in infinite flavors and can be rebutted in so many different ways, it’s impractical to give a comprehensive list. In my experience in both academia and popular discussions, there is no one argument that can be counted upon to come up. However, I would throw out Pascal’s wager, the need for a source of human morality, and arguments from ignorance concerning cosmic and biological origins as the most common theist arguments in popular circles. Further fallacies include shifting of the burden of proof and the construction of atheist straw men.

Since I rejected the premise of questions 1 and 2, the best I can answer you concerns the source of human morality. Again, you can be an atheist and a humanist, an atheist and a nihilist, or an atheist and a sociopath. Atheism has little to do with it. From my fairly mainstream point of view, the answer is first that human morality is innate. We are a social species, and love of family, altruism,  and cooperation are natural instincts. Aversion to actions contrary to those principles is also a natural reaction. We want to do well, we want others to do well, and we benefit from both desires. Figuring out how to best maximize human wellbeing is the purview of science. I refer you to Sam Harris’s “The Moral Landscape”.

“4) What do atheists around the world generally believe about how to deal with someone who holds different religious views, such as Muslims, Hindus, or Scientologists?”

I believe that no idea is above scrutiny. Some ideas are worthy of hostility. In a practical sense, these confrontations are rare, since social convention and the commonly defensive or tribal nature of the pious prevents a lot of good conversation in everyday life. On the other hand, many atheists consider any such confrontation to be rude by definition. For these atheists, even the word “atheist” is often avoided like the plague. I believe that this point of view is fueled by moral relativism and/or the normalized religious domination of society. In my experience, the most routine and pervasive forms of anti-atheist bigotry come from this crowd of fellow atheists who wish we would all just shut up. From confrontationists to diplomats, there is a spectrum of styles and extent of engagements with religious beliefs. I would further posit a third category that would contain closeted atheists who pretend to be religious out of fears such as ostracism.

Standard
Politics, Religion

The War of Ideas

Half of the country is unwilling to challenge the virtue of weapons that are obsolete in a modern world but pervasive in our culture. These close-minded, obstinate Americans see the costs and routine massacres of human life but won’t even acknowledge the central role these weapons play in the carnage.

For the right, it’s guns. For the left, it’s religion.

I am pro American leadership. I am anti-war. What we must do is remember what it means to be American: pro-freedom, and the land of opportunity, of immigrants.

Here are my policy proposals:

  • Declare American opposition to ideologies that conflict with basic human rights. Recognize that Christianity was once, and in a few ways still is, such an ideology. Challenge the world’s muslims to reform and modernize their religion.
  • Pour American money into the housing of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, and commit the US military to oversee and protect their transfer and any temporary camps.
  • Remove or drastically raise caps on the acceptance of refugees on US soil.
  • Accept a non-zero, low level of terrorism, even on US soil, as the cost of a free country.

We are neglecting a war of ideas in favor of a war of vengeance. Waging a war of ideas means that the President of the United States and the free people of the west say without equivocation that we are for freedom of expression everywhere. We are for freedom to worship everywhere. Therefore, we must oppose any ideology, including any religion, that infringes on the rights of others. We must stand against radical Islam and any violent ideology that is so fundamentally opposed to peace and modernity.

The left needs to have a few ideas pounded into its head: Islam is not a race. Criticism of an ideology, even war against an ideology, is not bigotry or prejudice any more than wars on fascism, racism, or communism. Of course there are anti-Arab, anti-muslim bigots, and of course there is no legitimacy in that prejudice.

Imagine if, during World War II, when we were were disgracefully locking up Japanese Americans for their race, the American left was unwilling to declare war on Japan because, clearly, it’s just racist fervor: “Japan is a nation of peace. Not all Japanese people attacked Pearl Harbor, and the attack has nothing to do with what the emperor of Japan says.”

Containment is an honorable mission. The United States can easily prevent the Islamic State from building a conventional military stronghold. With little risk and relatively low cost, our military can flatten any base or building, forcing our enemies to act small and live underground. Sending billion dollar warplanes to take out snipers and pickup trucks is not a good use of military might. Pursuing Islamists into the shadows, aiming for absolute destruction, is not practical. We have limited resources that could and should be committed to protecting civilians and housing refugees. Americans must welcome the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of our teeming shore are forsaken so that we can spend millions trying to blow up pickup trucks in Syria. We should be accepting hundreds of thousands of these huddled masses and pouring money into neighboring countries to support and protect refugees.

Conservatives like to bloviate about liberals “throwing money at the problem”. When it comes to foreign policy, money is one of our most useful tools. It’s time for the American right to stop getting away with throwing bullets and bombs at the problem.

Finally, we must accept that occasional terrorist attacks, even on US soil, are the inevitable result of apocalyptic ideologies. The goal is not to prevent every attack, but to minimize their number and casualties without sacrificing our values or liberty. The gut response to attacks should not be to raise security in the name of “never again”. Rather, our reaction should be that we will never surrender who we are out of fear.

Terrorists love to say that the jihadist loves death more than the infidel loves life. Our challenge is to love freedom more than the jihadist loves death.

Standard
Religion

Atheists, Don’t Get Defensive Over the Chapel Hill Murders

“Sporting chivalrous contest helps knit the bonds of peace between nations. Therefore, may the Olympic flame never expire.”

“Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.”

“The hostility that America continues to express against the Muslim people has given rise to feelings of animosity on the part of Muslims against America and against the West in general.”

“Enable every woman who can work to take her place on the labour front, under the principle of equal pay for equal work.”

“I have every right to insult a religion that goes out of its way to insult, to judge, and to condemn me as an inadequate human being – which your religion does with self-righteous gusto. […] When it comes to insults, your religion started this, not me. If your religion kept its big mouth shut, so would I. But given that it doesn’t, and given the enormous harm that your religion has done in this world, I’d say that I have not only a right, but a duty, to insult it, as does every rational, thinking person on this planet.”

I agree with the ideas expressed in each of these quotes. You might ascribe any of the first four to an American politician, academic, or pundit, and the last to one of the four horsemen of new atheism. (Of course, the writing isn’t up to snuff) We could take issue with style or make an exception here or there, but holistically, these are reasonable ideas that have a place in civilized discourse.

However, the first four quotes were made by men who have committed some of the worst crimes against humanity in history, and the last by a man who is accused of committing a heinous act of triple murder. They are, respectively: Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Osama Bin Laden, Mao Zedong, and Craig Hicks. If you agree with the quotes that I listed above, it doesn’t mean that you condone anything else that they did or said. Furthermore, just because they said them, doesn’t mean it motivated their crimes.

As many of you will have heard, three young people were shot to death in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on Tuesday. Craig Hicks was arrested and arraigned for committing this heart-wrenching crime after recently turning himself in. The immediate reaction of the press (which is always a dubious start) focused on the fact that Craig Hicks described himself as an “atheist” on his facebook page, where the above quote was also pulled and published.

It cannot yet be determined what motivated the crime. Hick’s ex-wife insists that it was a conflict over a parking space, and not anything to do with religion. The victims’ father insists that Hicks had been a hateful neighbor, bullying and threatening the victims “for what we are and how we look”.

Many atheist organizations have leapt to condemn the crime to avoid any appearance of hypocrisy. Many atheists and atheist organizations accuse religion of motivating immoral acts, and they criticize the pious for not condemning acts of violence committed in their name. The instinct appears right, but I would argue it’s misguided and sets a bad precedent.

The American Humanist Association is “deeply disturbed that this person identified as an atheist”. The Freedom from Religion Foundation is “very sorry to see someone identified as nonreligious in the news for a violent crime. Such an action is almost unheard of in the freethought world.”

If I had been running AHA or FFRF, I would not have included ideas like this in a press release. I’m no more disturbed or sorry that this crime appears to have been committed by an atheist than by a human being. There are violent and mentally disturbed people of all faiths and no faith. Securing justice for the victims of the Chapel Hill shooting has nothing to do with a suspect’s atheism, nor is this crime relevant to the conversation about the effects of religion on human behavior. What’s needed from these organizations in times like these isn’t defensiveness, but precision.

Atheists aren’t a member of a special club, and we don’t follow any doctrine or dogma. As is often said, the only way to be a bad atheist is to believe in a god. Of course, there are many more ways to be a bad human being.

It may be the case that Craig Hicks killed those people because he thought that their adherence to Islam meant that they deserved to die. He might have killed them because he believed that religion in general was so evil, and these three students so much to blame, that he was doing right by ridding the world of them. He might have also been motivated by the Kool-Aid man. Speculating on any such narrative based only on irrelevant crap that he wrote on his facebook page (as most media outlets seem willing to do) is as absurd as ascribing the holocaust to promoting the olympics. I want to give credit to the few media figures like Rachel Maddow, who didn’t bother dredging up salacious facebook posts like these and didn’t mention that Hicks was an atheist. It’s ok to report that there are suspicions of a hate crime, but it’s not ok to take advantage of the audience’s bias against atheism to paint a more salacious story.

Likewise, if a doctor who worked at Planned Parenthood was murdered, it would not be appropriate for the media to report that a suspect was a pro-life christian, insinuating that this was an act of anti-abortion terrorism, if that was all they had to go on.

Now, let me draw some distinctions. If Hicks had said that his muslim neighbors deserve to be killed, or that he was driven to shoot people because of his atheism, that would be relevant. When radical muslims advocate violence, explicitly in the name of Islam, I believe them. When Christians say that they literally believe every word of the bible, full of injunctions for slavery, genocide, rape, torture, and murder, I believe them. These are neither benign nor rare impacts on our civilization, and they need to be confronted in the open. The Chapel Hill murders should do nothing to hamper that confrontation.

Self-identifying as a Christian or Muslim isn’t an arbitrary identity. If you declare yourself associated with immoral or absurd scriptures or belief systems, you bare some responsibility for their effects.

It’s both rare and absurd for atheists to claim that they are compelled to do anything by their atheism. There is no atheist holy book. If you find that a convenient cop out, then you are right. That’s the virtue of atheism, individual responsibility. However, in a world with extraordinary press access and over 7 billion people, rare events are reported all the time. So, there’s bound to be some asshole who resorts to violence in the name of something absurd.

“With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion.” – Steven Weinberg

I’m writing this because there isn’t sufficient evidence that Chris Hicks had any such motivations. Even if he did, it wouldn’t be cause for atheists and atheists communities to get defensive.

It may very well be that Craig Hicks brutally murdered three young people because of their religious beliefs, race, or attire. It makes absolutely no difference what he thought about religious discourse or content, the olympics, education, or women’s rights. We prosecute people for crimes in this country, not thoughtcrime… at least, we’re not supposed to.

Standard
Religion

Reza Aslan, Full of Crap

On my facebook wall, I found a video that was shared by both very religious and atheistic friends: Reza Aslan was on CNN, attempting to respond to this segment from the consistently annoying Bill Maher. Here’s Bill. I didn’t find it particularly interesting. It’s merely posted for context.

Here is Reza, trying very hard to make me break my computer screen…

I’m glad to see a little bit of heat directed at Islam from CNN, but I can’t compliment them beyond that. Reza is slick enough to avoid the whole point of the segment, and CNN is way WAY too cowardly to call him on it. The press is simply unwilling to be sufficiently precise with their criticisms.

I agree with Reza that the subjugation of women is a Saudi problem. Genital mutilation is a central african problem. (Ok, it’s a problem almost everywhere) The lack of more female leaders is an American problem. I’ll go a step farther and say that dental hygiene is a UK problem. So is Yakety sax.

The point is that women can’t drive in Saudi Arabia because of Islam. Genitals are mutilated (for the most part) because of religion. Islam promotes violence and muslim leaders incite violence. The Quran is at least as bloody and despicable as the bible, but islam has too many honest adherents to ignore the obvious calls for violence. Case in point: Most people are too scared to post that this is “the prophet” Mohammad -> 🙂

Not every muslim beheads heretics, but muslims that do behead heretics are chiefly motivated by their faith. Just ask them. Of course, you don’t have to. They are quite public about their motivations.

Moderates like Reza Aslan grant ideological shelter to violent theofascists. It is far too complimentary to the parties of god to call their most principled adherents “extremists”.

I propose that we stop referring to them as “extremists” altogether. ISIS and Al Qaeda are composed of “principled muslims”. I would like to hear moderates deny that description as accurate. Perhaps moderates have different principles than their more violent adherents, but there is no good reason to justify one over the other once the legitimacy of faith is granted.

Atheism has no principles that can be used as indictments for the actions of atheists. That’s not to say that one shouldn’t adhere to organizations or ideologies that contain important principles, even a few dubious ones. Hell, I’m a member of the Democratic party! However, if the Democratic party’s platform, or a significant number of its members, advocated that Democrats should “kill [disbelievers] wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out” (Quran 2:191-193), I would immediately resign membership, and work to change or undermine it. I call on the parties of god to do the same.

Source: http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/quran/023-violence.htm

(This is just my first google result. I won’t claim scholarship of the Quran)

Standard
Religion

The Not Good Book

There are plenty of bits about the 10 commandments, none less famous than George Carlin’s attempt to slim them down to size.

There is no shortage of atheists and liberal Christians who hold up the bible and its commandments as a work of great, secular moral teachings, while eager to defend or apologize for the parts of the bible that are… less good.

Let me take this a step farther than “the bible is imperfect, but valuable”. The commandments and central teachings of the bible are immoral. Let’s take them one by one.

First, each of the 10 commandments:

I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

First, no you’re not. At best, you are a person writing down stories that have been passed by word of mouth for hundreds of years. Your stories have negligible basis in natural history and lack evidentiary support. Even if such a god existed and literally wrote the copy of the bible that was in my hand, this would not be a moral proposition. I ought to hold all beings, god or mortal, in the esteem that they deserve. Thou art a jealous god, and according to your memoir, a dick.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

First, thou art wordy and paranoid. No being of any kind deserves worship or servitude. This is too absurd a commandment to warrant much of a response, but in short: We’ll make whatever art we want thank you very much. Furthermore, does anyone think that it’s moral to punish ones offspring for the crimes of their parents, let alone their great grandparents?

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Though art redundant. This is a goddamn commandment against free speech. Even the UN considers freedom of expression a natural right. So, Jesus Christ, get a grip!

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is…

Ok, ok we get it, I’ll save you from how long this one is. First of all, which day is the seventh day? The various sects can’t seem to agree. Furthermore, why is this commandment important? Rest is fine, and holidays that mark important occasions are fine. However, this commandment doesn’t say “chill out and rest once in a while”. The Old Testament actually prescribes punishment by death to those who dare to work on the unspecified Sabbath day. I fail to see how anyone’s wellbeing is incumbent on my staying home from the lab on each Friday… I mean, Saturday… Sunday?

Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

First of all, not all parents deserve honor or respect. Many were not given the choice to become parents. Many are incompetent and some are abusive. That being said, this is the first commandment to be less order-driven, suggesting that there are consequences for the extent for one’s respect for their parents. If there was any evidence to suggest that loving your parents made you live longer, this may be a decent bit of advice to take or leave, but it is immoral as a commandment.

Thou shalt not kill/murder.

Let’s take this commandment on its own despite the clear contradiction with the entirety of the bible. I believe that capital punishment is immoral, but you don’t have the choices on a battlefield that you have in the judicial system. Are there people who think that it would be immoral to murder Adolf Hitler or Osama Bin Laden? It is almost always preferable to imprison such people for life, but if bringing them in would result in the death of scores of special forces, isn’t a bunker-busting missile the most moral course? What if you are a sniper, and you have a suicide bomber in your sights, about to detonate himself in a crowd of children? Show him love and compassion? No. Murder the motherfucker.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

I will again be generous and ignore the bible’s hypocrisy and the obviously immoral aspects of this commandment with respect to women, divorce, and rape. Let’s pretend that this commandment is ok with non-monogamous relationships, masturbation, and porn. (ha!) I am being quite generous.

Consider that you are in a monogamous marriage, and you have several young children with your partner. Your partner has no libido, and you have not has sex in years. He/she is unwilling to make accommodations. You could separate or divorce (if the bible allowed it) tearing apart your family. You could live on like this in a bitter household, a relationship doomed to fail, and a bitter day-to-day lifestyle that may do equal damage to the family as a divorce. On the other hand, you could have an occasional, discrete affair, continue to care for your family and companionate partner, and get your needs met elsewhere, saving your marriage. What is the most moral course to take? Is one of them clearly immoral? It’s not always an easy decision, but an iron age commandment is certainly of no help. Any commandments that require absolute, exception-free obedience are bound to be immoral in some contexts.

Thou shalt not steal.

The easy argument here is the same as the commandment against murder, as there are always extenuating circumstances one could imagine that require theft: Stealing medicine or food for a sick or starving child, stealing weapons or liberty from a dangerous individual, etc.

However, this commandment goes farther, infringing on the foundation for our civilization: Collective action. Taxes can be considered theft. The draft can be considered theft. As social creatures, a libertarian view of property is untenable.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

It’s a damn good thing that Anne Frank’s hosts knew this to be an immoral proposition.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, not his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbors.

Seriously, God, if you are going to be writing timeless laws for all human kind, take a technical writing class. Cut out the specifics if you are going to end with “any thing”.

Not only can I not steal, I can’t even desire. First, this is impossible. This is the classic “made sick, and ordered to be well” commandment against thought-crime. As George Carlin says so well, this is the foundation for capitalism, the sort of property-based economy that earlier commandments required. Thy neighbor would not own an ox, ass, or gendered servant if he had not already coveted those of his neighbor’s.

Moving on from the Old Testament to one of the most secularized commandments, the Golden Rule…

“Love thy neighbor as thyself”, or as it is better known,

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

Commandments of love are fine with me as long as they don’t prioritize that love or prescribe specific actions. The goal of this commandment is to make followers empathetic for others. It could be restated, “do good because you want people to do good to you”. The problem is, your personal interests are not good standards by which to measure the interests of others.

The obvious tarnish on the Golden Rule is that it fails for sadomasochists. I don’t want them following the Golden Rule around me. In a more general sense, this rule betrays the value of our neighbors’ diversity, a boon to humankind.

My neighbor doesn’t want to be treated the same way that I want to be treated, and we all intrinsically know that. However, flawed, unbending rules like this give us excuses to act in ways that we otherwise could not defend. “I like getting my ass grabbed by strangers, so why is Katy so mad when I do it?”

The sermon on the mount

This contains lots of immoral Christian mantras and pronouncements, but this could be a very long post if I started in on it here. You can check out Iron Chariots for a verse-by-verse breakdown

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

This is rarely claimed as a secular moral, but it is rarely challenged on moral grounds, only that it is factually flawed. Let me take the former here, clause by clause…

If we are all god’s children, and Adam was created by god… why is Jesus his only son? Also, couldn’t he make another if he wanted to? The verse hangs on the point that God gave his only son, and I fail to see why either “only” or “son” is significant in God’s case. This verse is artificially inflating God’s sacrifice.

Eternal life may not be the sort of reward that is implied here. An eternity of worshiping god doesn’t seem so great to me. An eternity of anything would trouble me, so I’m not sold on this reward. Furthermore, this verse doesn’t specify the type of eternal life I would have, and there’s far too much talk about hellfire in the new testament for me to be all that eager.

The main point of this verse, and modern Christianity, is commanded belief. This is both an impossible and immoral commandment. We cannot choose our beliefs without significant and harmful brainwashing, hypnosis, or torture. Our beliefs are the result of personal experience, argument, and evidence. Is there any reward that could motivate you to believe that your given name was “Jerry”? (assuming that it isn’t) I don’t mean professing that your name is Jerry, or being convinced by argument that your name is Jerry, but actually changing your belief, motivated merely by reward. Beliefs don’t work that way. Either God is looking for a dishonest declaration of belief, or he is only interested in followers that are subject to delusion.

We do, however, suffer from confirmation bias among our many cognitive biases. Compensation can skew our otherwise objective considerations of arguments and evidence. This is an immoral practice to engage in willingly. It takes advantage of credulity, a dishonest and cynical practice by a Machiavellian god. The only moral way to change one’s beliefs is to offer sufficient evidence and honest argument. Bribery is immoral.

John 8:7 – He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”

A secular version might be that only perfect people may judge others. The obvious implication is that no one is perfect, so no one is allowed to judge anyone else. We are social and interdependent creatures. This is a commandment that shuts down communication and ends conversations about morality before they begin. Humans require a social contract, laws, and enforcement of those laws. None of this is possible if we require perfection from everyone before anyone can be held accountable.

In reality, this is a transparent way around the immoral commandments of the old testament. Jesus cannot denounce the laws calling for the stoning of adulterers since it is this same law that gives him any authority as the messiah. He therefore upholds the laws, but refuses to enforce them, like the White House turning a blind eye to Marijuana sales where it is legalized while spending billions on an un-winnable drug war… sorry. I got carried away.

All in all, morality cannot be expressed in commandments. Life is complicated, and building a just society is difficult. The bible works in sound bites about right and wrong. No prescription for human wellbeing can be written, and trying to do so, by starting with conclusions, impedes moral progress.

Creationists betray their foolishness by concluding that the bible is Truth, and forcing all other data to fit that conclusion. Even the most liberal Christians betray the same foolishness in forcing biblical interpretations to fit the conclusion that the bible is Good.

Even if it was possible to prescribe human morals, the bible does a piss poor job of it. I wouldn’t  expect much more from an Iron-Age myth. I do, however, expect much more from my neighbors today, and shame on those who describe the bible as a moral guide of human values.

In a post where I quote a crackpot book, let me end with a quote from a crackpot, C.S. Lewis:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

 

Standard