Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Christianity v. Atheism: Ethics of Thought (1)


What an Athiest Ought to Stand for

Biblical Authority and Cultural Relativism

The Loss of Truth

I recently read the article What an Atheist Ought to Stand for by Richard Carrier (first link). This writing came to my attention after reading the blog "Skeptic in Training" ( Memoirs of an Ex-Christian).

The following is an analysis of inherent flaws I find in the atheistic framework, self-defeating principles, which make the foundations Atheism intellectually unsound (even as carried into "secular humanism"). I have compared the beliefs in several points (based on the essay) : 1.The Ethics of Thought 2.The Ethics of Life 3.The Ethic of Ethics

(Initial discussion is based on the first premise)

The Ethics of Thought

Both

The follower of Christ and the atheist alike believe that the human mind is easily decieved, and can easily be led to conclusions that are not rooted in reality.

Christian

For the Christian, the deception is avoided by knowledge of the absolute truth, the word of God. When Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan, He refuted all of Satan's half-truths with Scripture. He first told Jesus to turn the stones into bread. Jesus responds with what God told the Isrealites, Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word of God. Satan then told Jesus to throw himself down from a high place, because the Scripture says that angels with protect him. Christ responds, do not put the Lord your God to the test. And, having no success, Satan finally tells Jesus he will give him all the kingdoms of the world if he agrees to worship him. Jesus tells him to leave, quoting another command, worship the Lord your God and serve him only (Matt 4).

The conclusions Christ teaches here, consistent throughout the Bible, is to rely on word of God as the ultimate Truth. Thus, the Christian is provided with a clear measure of morality and truth that transcends time and culture, not rooted in our shifting mind.

Atheist

“inquiry and doubt are essential checks against deception, self-deception, and error.”

Richard Carrier argues “…I cannot count the number of times I have heard Christians declare this value as a reason to read the Bible, yet blithely ignore it when I ask them to read the Tao Te Ching.”Carrier explains that conclusions and thought-processing for an atheist emphasize guarding against deception and human error. “Logic and proper empiracal method is the only way the whole world can arrive at an agreement on the truth about anything.” Generally, the atheist stands for “values of reason and freethought.”

My Argument

First, the fundamental problem he has encountered is in overestimating the ability we have in our minds to empiracally measure the search for truth. How can we, in ourselves, measure deception, especially self-deception? Can not our own logic, with which we measure, be the workings of deception itself? “inquiry and doubt” with this logic, become the means and the end to a framework with no absolute foundation.

Second, he suggests that Christians exercise a particular bias in solely using the Bible as the absolute basis. Why not the Tao Te Ching? Why not the Qur’an? Why not the Upanishads? Because Truth by definition is exclusive. I know the Bible is true. This also means that I know all that contradicts the Bible is false. If I choose to study every belief in the world as objectively as possible, and then make a conclusion based on the study, it would not change the fact that the Bible alone is the word of God. If you are in a liabrary, looking for a particular book, when you finally find it, do you continue to search every book in the liabrary in order to conclude that you found the one for which you were looking?

Jesus Christ says in John 14:6 "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He is the only way, so I do not need to continue to search for another way.


Thoughts

How does the atheist define logic? I agree that scientific methods and empiracal data have a role in determining factual evidence for the things we can comprehensively understand, but what of that which we cannot comprehensively understand? Creation? Our existance? Our purpose? the origin of morality?

I want to understand how the atheist establishes the principles of right or wrong. How he or she can even belief in a concept of truth. Carrier states “The honest atheist will regard willful ignorance and blind faith as the more dangerous of sins.” How does an atheist even conceive such a thing as sin?

9 comments:

Dar said...

Hopefully I've satisfied some of your questions on my latest post.

tichius said...

Thank you for your insight, Dar. I have read part of your post; but I intend to read read through it at length. I appreciate you for taking the time to engage in this discussion.

wtfwyw said...

>> For the Christian, the deception is avoided by knowledge of the absolute truth, the word of God.

I heard from another Christian, that man are wired to please the God, and Christians have to do things to make the God happy.

I was told that Christians are taught to learn to be a better person, by learning from the God, but unfortunately, can never as good as the God. If one tries to be God, the result is like Satan, to be thrown into the hell.

I also learnt that whenever there's something that the bible cannot explain, the answer will be something like only God will know, or it's created by God, or it's God's intention, etc.

tichius said...

You know, I have talked to many christians who believe different things. It gets so frustrating, and terribly confusing. That said, I think I understand the battle with which you are struggling.

God loves us, He sent His Son, Jesus, to die that we may live.

I'm sure you have already heard this, you may hate hearing it. I challenge you to commit yourself to deciding whether this is true or not. Research the Bible, read the Bible, try to understand what it is actually saying.

Ask Jesus Christ, that if he was who He claimed to be, to reveal the truth to you.

Sounds silly, I know, but if nothing happens, nothing was lost. If you find the Truth, everything is gained. Search the bible for answers to your questions.

I have provided a link to the bible.com on this site under "search the bible", where you can search by subject.

I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts.

Cori said...

I appreciate what you say about the weakness of using doubt or skeptisism as a way to truth - because if the mind is deceptive we cannot trust it even to think logically, to doubt relevantly, or to be completely honest in its skepticism, which results in a bit of a vicious cycle. I guess that somewhere along the line there needs to be that completely still point (thinking along the lines of Faucault's Pendulum), that point outside of our deceptive minds that we can hold onto for certain. I'm hesitant of using the term 'absolute' because of all its baggage! I'm also hesitant to say is is the Word of God because of the inherent bias in how we read that word. Perhaps it would be safer or more accurate to say that it is in the PERSON of Jesus?

Thanks for this perceptive post!

tichius said...

Cori, I agree... we have to be careful with our word choices now, because of social conditioning and misuse.

Salvation is in the Person of Christ, who is the word made flesh. (John 1)

(in fact I hesitate to even say I am a Christian... I prefer to say I am a follower of Christ, because few understand what being Christian means)

Thanks for your insight!

SuperSkeptic said...

"The conclusions Christ teaches here, consistent throughout the Bible, is to rely on word of God as the ultimate Truth. Thus, the Christian is provided with a clear measure of morality and truth that transcends time and culture, not rooted in our shifting mind."

Part of the reason why I'm struggling with Christianity is because I don't believe that Christianity provides this clear measure of morality and truth. I first had a problem with Christianity when I realized that the Bible (and my church) was supporting and teaching condemnation of homosexuality. I believe this condemnation to be immoral. Looking further in the Bible, I found many other things that I found to be against my moral code: condoning slavery, misogyny, genocide, and more.

Tichius, on Dar's post, you commented that you "do not believe an absolute moral law can exist without an absolute moral law-giver, God."

So I ask you, in all seriousness: Is slavery moral or immoral? If immoral, how did God give this moral law to you? Where in the Bible does it condemn slavery? If slavery is moral, why do you believe that?

Where do I get my morals? Moral values (in a non-theistic worldview) stem from the fact that humans have sympathy and empathy. I believe these were traits that evolved in us, as sympathy and empathy make it more likely that humans will choose to take care of each other, and therefore flourish. Do they matter? In my opinion, yes. We all have lives to live, and all of us can do our part to improve everyone's existance for the short time we are here.

tichius said...

Superskeptic,

Thanks a lot for your comment.

My first suggestion is to think about Christ and not christians. The worldview I have now is the result of my desire and commitment to learn God's word. When we focus on people, no matter what worldview you support, it becomes depressing. Sad as it is, Christians do not always follow what they claim to believe. And some claim to be Christian, who do not believe in Christ. Research the Bible, try to understand God's heart, and things will fall into place.


The clear morality I was referring to in the Bible, is within the teachings of Christ (not from church or in Christians, though there are many who are following Him). Remember, the Law (the ten commandments) was written for the lawless, and to show us that we are not capable of righteousness in our own strength. Jesus tells us that He is the Way the Truth and the Life. This means that in Him, we are able to find the answer to how to live our lives.

Specific issues you have brought up:

Homosexuality: this issue is something that is difficult to deal with. It is clearly wrong, and we see evidence for that in scripture.

But God loves all, and we are all struggling with sin.
I do not believe people who struggle with this sin should be treatly differently than anyone else, but it should be recognized as sin. When we confess are sins to the Lord, He is faithful and just to forgive us.

Slavery: yes, I believe this is immoral. I guess I might feel more strongly about this than others because my ancestors were brought to America as slaves.

However, the Bible never condones slavery, or misogyny as you suggest. He has given us free will, and if we chose to mistreat others, he allows it... for a season. The Bible is a history book of sorts, and just because God records some of human kinds greatest evils, it does not mean he condones it.

In response to your request of scripture for condemnation of slavery, here:

"Do to others what you would have them do to you." Luke 6:31 (Jesus says this)

I hope this helps a little, thanks for visiting my site!

Lui said...

"I agree that scientific methods and empiracal data have a role in determining factual evidence for the things we can comprehensively understand, but what of that which we cannot comprehensively understand? Creation? Our existance? Our purpose? the origin of morality?"

The one way you DON'T do it is by making things up, which is what religion does. Science, though imperfect, is by far the most powerful methodology we have for explaining phenomena. Religious explanations have almost invariably turned out to be wrong.

"I want to understand how the atheist establishes the principles of right or wrong."

In almost exactly the same way you do, except we don't slap a divine label onto it. Surely you don't mean to say that without belief in God, you would have no conception of morality? There's a word for people of such a mindset: psychopaths.