I checked with Reg before posting this, but if any mods feel it's contrary to house rules, I understand if it needs to be deleted.

I've been a member here for more than a year, though I don't post often. I mostly read the "Sunday School" links, but I've appreciated the thoughtful and civil conversation the few times I've jumped into a thread with a Christian perspective. I'm a part-time Christian blogger and podcaster, and I've wanted for some time to do a debate/discussion video series with folks coming from different perspectives. Sort of a "2am at college"-style informal debate where both sides can respectfully discuss disagreements. I finally have time to put something like that together and TA came to mind because of the quality of discussion here.

I want to invite anyone who is interested to join me in a recorded debate/discussion via Skype which I would then post to YouTube. I'd also post the link here for discussion, if anyone wanted. Ideally, the video would include a split-screen webcam view of both of us, since that's more interesting to watch, but it's fine if you would rather stay anonymous.

The format I have in mind is that we pick a general topic and each come up with a couple questions to get the conversation started. We share the questions ahead of time so it's not gotcha stuff. Then we schedule a Skype call and talk about your questions and then mine, or vice versa. Some topics might work better with a different format -- I'm not wedded to that exact approach. 

Here's my YouTube channel, though it doesn't have much there at this point. If you are interested in this, let me know at david@davidvogel.net. My blog is at davidvogel.net. (I share it for informational rather than self-promotional purposes, as I'm pretty sure none of you will be interested in becoming regular readers. :-) [Though I do welcome constructive criticism.])

Possible topic ideas:

* Christian vs. atheist understanding of morality
* Evidence for God's existence
* Historicity of the Bible
* Possibility of miracles
* Anything else you want to talk about

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Best answer to that question I have yet had from an apologist here on Think Atheist. I will add my rebuttal later :-)

Here is an interesting article on "monkey morality" I just read today. No scratching when reading it!!

Haha (please excuse this tangent).

Smith tells the story of a chimp in a zoo hiding rocks from his keeper at night so he can enjoy his favourite morning pastime – throwing rocks at visitors.

I shall adopt him as a guard-chimp, and name him Mohammad!

In response to your statement that the bible is 100% true...you deflected it by saying you can't address every thing in the bible.

I am asking you to address ONE thing the bible says happened, the flood that is in the Noah's Ark story.

This is ONE easily verified or falsified issue.

Either it happened, and the bible got it right, or, it didn't happen, and the bible got it wrong.

If the bible got it wrong, then, the bible is not 100% true, as, whatever percent the bible story represents, is false.

Are you willing to address this, or, do you realize that the flood never happened, and, you are ready to concede that the bible is not 100% true?


(Don't worry about the other items I mentioned, or how MUCH less than 100% we are talking about, just address this ONE issue to establish the truth here, relative to the 100% claim

This topic is germane to your

* Historicity of the Bible

topic you listed as part of this thread)

Hey TJ, your flood question is pretty much a textbook red herring. We were talking about morality in the Bible and my actual statement was that I would "defend any moral teaching in the Bible." However, I'll go ahead and answer anyway, in hopes that you'll respond by answering the questions I asked you earlier which addressed the questions of morality we had been discussing. As a reminder, here are the unanswered questions: 

[You wrote:] We learned what OUR society considers to be moral, and what OUR society considers to be immoral.

[I responded:] Is this a new definition of morality that you're offering? Because earlier you said it was what we felt was wrong. That is different from saying it's what our society considers to be wrong.

If this is your new criteria for determining what is right and wrong, then I have two questions:

1. Why should I care what my society thinks is right?

2. Can a society ever be wrong? Is female genital mutilation fine if I'm from a culture where it's accepted?

Back to the slavery issue: If you want me to admit that slavery is always wrong, categorically, and in every possible scenario, upon what basis should I reach that conclusion? The fact that you feel that way? (That seems rather arrogant.) The fact that our society feels that way? (If society changes its mind, does slavery become fine again?)

Regarding the flood, you asked, "Show me your unrefuted geological proof that there was a global flood as depicted in the bible if its 100% true." A few points: 

1. There is no reason to artificially restrict acceptable evidence to geology. A hypothetical flood event could be attested in other ways. 

2. Not having researched this particular issue in great detail, my main reason for believing in a worldwide flood is because I consider the Bible reliable. Obviously, that won't hold water for you, but it's not inherently unreasonable to hold an otherwise-unverified belief on the basis of a trusted source. 

3. Noting point 1, there is good historical/anthropological evidence in support of the flood from the fact that huge numbers of cultures have a flood myth. It's not conclusive evidence by itself, but it is somewhat probative. 

4. If you want geological evidence, the discovery of fossilized sea creatures high on mountaintops supports a flood hypothesis. (I realize there are other ways this could be explained.) 

5. Since my belief is not based primarily on geological evidence one way or the other, an effective refutation would need to offer geological evidence which suggested that my Bible-based belief is incorrect. If you want to share links to such evidence, I'd gladly read them. 

Huh. Interesting stuff in that article, Reg. I don't doubt or deny that animals can exhibit behavior that looks similar to what we would call "moral" in a person. I suspect they subjectively experience such situations differently, but I can't really speak to it since I'm not a chimpanzee... Either way, my interest is in human morality, as exemplified by TJ, for example. He keeps referring to "better" morality, or improvements in morality, which doesn't make sense by his own definitions. It seems to me that an atheist either has to throw away moral standards entirely (except as subjective preferences, irrelevant to anyone else) or accept that morality is something which cannot be explained through natural processes. But I'll take that up with TJ below... :-) 

David, it's obvious that you see human morality as something completely distinct from animal morality. A difference in kind rather than degree. Is that because you do not believe that monkeys and humans both evolved from a common ancestor? If they did it seems sensible to treat both their moral experiences as being the same kind of thing even if ours are more complex because of our larger forebrains.

It seems to me that an atheist either has to throw away moral standards entirely (except as subjective preferences, irrelevant to anyone else) or accept that morality is something which cannot be explained through natural processes…..

No David.  We do not swallow our morals in tablet form, as Hitchens would have said. We do not use the Bible as a source of morality because we do not consider the Bible as an adequate source of them.

The final sentence in the article I linked is important.

….we can discern the glimmering of incipient morality in the animal kingdom, glimmerings that later seeded the evolution of moral codes in human society.

Yes, the opposite of what you said. We DO understand morality to be a natural process. It is fluid rather than absolute. It evolves and is not chiselled in stone.

I am not speaking for TJ here. I contend that the morality of the humanist and secular world is much “better” than that of the Christendom. I am not saying that Christians or Muslims are necessarily “bad”, it is just in my (subjective) opinion. I find the (hundreds) atheists I know to be very ethical people because their standards are constantly under scrutiny via open debate. We take actions based upon what is “right or wrong” rather than what we are told is “good or evil”. We tend to act because we understand the action to be the “right” thing to do and not because “the eyes or the Lord are in every place” watching over us.

I have Christians ask me on a regular basis “why are you not out raping and killing if you don’t believe in God?”  To me that mind-set is primitive. When someone seriously asks us that question we tend to look at them as infantile. Is that a mirror of their standards? Do they only “behave” because they think their God is watching them? Our standards are way past that sort of thinking (or inability to think).  Would they ask a Chinese or Indian person that question? They don’t believe in the existence of your God either. But it is how the majority of Christian thinks. (Yes, the majority).

Many of the commandments are about praising God. The rest are almost repeating common sense. What is so good about Biblical morality that I could find useful to improve my own standards? I can think of nothing.

I remember that quote from Penn Jillette who said that Christians were always telling him that without religion people would be out raping and stealing as much as they want.

His reply was that he was already raping and stealing as much as he wanted. And that amount was zero.

Yes, thanks Simon. I could not recall the exact sentiment at the time.

"It seems to me that an atheist either has to throw away moral standards entirely (except as subjective preferences, irrelevant to anyone else) or accept that morality is something which cannot be explained through natural processes"

And yet there are those of us that do neither. What do you think of the idea of a morality by consensus that I mentioned before? This has the advantage of not being beholden to one particular individual's point of view (which, depending on the individual, could be a big problem) and yet gets away from the unworkable idea that morality can be absolutely, objectively defined.

Of course most atheists don't go around raping and killing! That's not my point at all. I wouldn't expect a typical atheist to go around raping and killing because I believe you have an innate moral law "written on your heart," per Romans 2:14-15. (I have no idea where these Christians who expect atheists to go around doing awful things come from, but I don't know any of them personally, and I know a lot of Christians.) My argument is that you have bad ethical philosophy, not bad morals. 

My point is not that you cannot be good, but that you cannot explain what good is in a way that is coherent with an atheistic worldview. 

Y'all have referred several times to things being "good" (the idea, if not the word) in this conversation. For example, "I contend that the morality of the humanist and secular world is much 'better' than that of the Christendom." But what is "good" or "better," morally speaking? 

As several of you have pointed out, behavior that appears moral could have evolved, like the last line of Reg's article says. No argument there. However, in that case morality is merely an evolutionary relic, like wisdom teeth or the gallbladder. It is a description of behavior which helped my evolutionary ancestors survive. 

If my ancestors happened to evolve in a world in which rape wasn't a survival benefit, why in the world does that mean I shouldn't rape? It could mean I felt I shouldn't rape, but I also feel like I should avoid heights and nobody gets bent out of shape if I go cliff-diving. Why is "Don't rape" different from "Avoid heights" if morality just evolved? 

Simon asked about morality being determined by society. I would reply with the two questions I asked TJ about this: 

1. Why should I care what my society thinks is right?

2. Can a society ever be wrong? Is female genital mutilation fine if I'm from a culture where it's accepted?

Just to reemphasize: I AM NOT SAYING YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT IS GOOD. :-)  What I am saying is that a theistic worldview can explain why things are good, but I don't see how atheism can. I think you are using moral concepts borrowed from theism and, to be intellectually honest, should either get rid of them or embrace a worldview which actually explains the moral concepts you innately recognize. 


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