I have had yet another debate sparked on my facebook account after posting a quote as my status. I have asked for advice and help on here in the past and have had great responses. I find I learn more by asking others for help and it allows us all to flex our intellectual muscles a bit. If anyone would once again like to help me formulate a good response to the following, I would much appreciate it.

Some background info: Neal, the gentleman who posted the response to the quote is an old friend and former employer. He used to run a Christian Summer Camp. He is a smart guy and a very caring individual. This is the first contact I have had with him since "coming out" as an atheist.

Without further adieu, the facebook convo:


Me: "An Atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An atheist believes that deed must be done
instead of prayer said. An atheist strives for involvement in life and
not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanished, war
eliminated." - Madalyn Murray O'Hair, American activist (1919 - 1995)


Neal: Wow! I doubt that is accurate. Atheism covers a broad range of values. To suggest that most
or even a significant percentage of atheists feel that way is wrong.
That was merely o'hair 's way of trying to get prayer out of schools.
To even suggest atheism as a system of "moral" guidance is A
misrepresentation.


While one can always draw ... examples to pretty much demonstrate anything you want, it is my choice to follow guidelines that were laid out
roughly 2,000 years ago to serve as a moral compass for my life. A
belief structure that is essentially "anything goes" does not cut it for
me. Imagine where our country would be if not for being founded on
Christian principals. Sure, there's been things done in the name of the
church that were hurtful, wrong and damaging. But you need to look at
the good that's been done as well to see the big picture. All of the
social services, health/welfare, volunteerism, education and much of
what we are as a country can find it's roots in the founding father's
faith.

Go to a country where there was no moral compass that guided how their government began and compare. You'll have a rude
awaking.

Yes there's shortfalls. The obligation one who critizes must assume is the obligation to show what to do to make it
better.


Yeager: Or look at medieval Europe where the church ran everything.

Charles: There's nothing wrong with foregoing metaphysics in favor of appreciating every last moment, of being mindful of your life and living
it to the fullest extent and doing as much good as possible. I believe
the above quote reflects that.

Neal: The quote is just that. . . A quote. Not a definition of atheisim. And everyone has to choose for
themselves what they hold to be true and right. That is what I mean by
a moral compass - the values that you as a person consider important.
Has nothing to do with others, everything to do with you individually.
The values our country was
... founded upon were based on the founding
fathers faith and Christian values.


Yep, there are things wrong. But don't ignore what's right while touting the shortfalls or you end
up with an unbalanced viewpoint, skewed towards the shortfalls

Yeager: Okay... the founding fathers built our constitution based on religious persecutions in Europe.Not to
mention, if you want to look at it, most would be considered atheists if
you'd read their writings... or deists... at best. Poor Thomas
Paine... Looks like no one wanted an age or reason.

Me: 
I concede that Atheism in and of itself makes no claims on moral codes, as it is simply the lack of a belief in any God. Atheists all arrive at morality in their own way.
Rule of law, mutual benefit, philosophically, Secular values, Humanism,
etc... This does not mean that simply because atheism does not have its
own moral code that people who identify as atheist don't tend to exhibit a
similar moral belief system. Atheists tend to be perfectly moral people
and more importantly, don't have to be told what is right and what
isn't. As for O'Hair, unless you personally questioned her or read her
mind, how could you question her motives or sincerity?

I take particular offense to the idea that atheism is an "anything goes"
approach to moral guidance. It's not that at all, it simply rejects the
idea that morality is derived from a god, or that there were no morals
before 2000 years ago. Why, also, do so many atheist seem to converge on
the same set of moral values if it really is 'anything goes'?

"If the country is founded on Christianity, please site where in the
Constitution it mentions God, the Bible, the Ten Commandments, Jesus,
the Holy Spirit, or any of the gospels?" The Constitution is an
explicitly secular document. Most of the founding fathers were Deists,
not Christians. To learn more, you could look up The Enlightenment. Some
of the founders were atheists. Some where also Christians.Can you site
some of the founding laws of the US, not states, that make you say that?
I see the first commandment telling us to have only one god, and the
first amendment saying you may have any as a clear conflict. You need to
credit the Greeks and the Romans, along with the Pagan Norseman for our
democracy. If we had left it up to the theocratic church we would live
in the catholic version of religious tyranny. It is insulting to claim
that our society and our goodness is based on the Christian Church. We
were founded as a country by people escaping religious tyranny. Also,
don't forget Article 11 of the Treaty with Tripoli declared in part that
"the government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the
Christian religion..."

As for countries with no religious moral compass, there has been a study done that actually shows the countries
with the lowest religiosity tend to have the highest levels of wealth
and success as well as the lowest levels of crime and poverty. Here is a
link to one of the studies:http://www.epjournal.net/filestore/EP07398441_c.pdf You can find the statistical graphs starting on page 13 and see how far out of whack
the US is. The Study has been done twice, in order to silence the
critics of the first one and the same conclusions can be drawn in both
studies. Japan, Denmark, Sweden, Czech Republic, Netherlands... all
miserable places? I would actually love to live in a country that
exhibited the same statistics as these countries

Neal:
Beyond my interest in debating at this level. You'll have to come down some night and enjoy some quality "hot
tub" time and we can chat. You're a good friend and I care about you
and your view points. Who knows - we might even agree on some points.


By the way I looked up your reference to the study by Gregory Paul and the particular study you referenced. In my opinion it is an over reach of the material to grant it to the level you are suggesting. And not
everyone quite agrees with his material putting it (in my opinion) in
the catagory leaning towards subjective research vs objective and
conclusive research. Just because a free
lance researcher publishes a paper does not mean it's definitive. He
does have some valid points, but I feel some holes as well.
Interesting. . . .

Check out the declaration of independance for references to "God" and "Creator"

My offer stands Kyle, to have you down sometime. Neal

Tags: Debate

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That is so true! People just assume that atheism is more than what it most simply is: a lack of belief in deity. I wonder why that is.
You might ask, "If the country is founded on Christianity, please site where in the Constitution it mentions God, the Bible, the Ten Commandments, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or any of the gospels?" The Constitution is an explicitly secular document. Most of the founding fathers were Deists, not Christians. To learn more, he could look up The Enlightenment. Some of the founders were atheists. Some where also Christians. If he doubts that any of them weren't Christian, tell him to just read "The Age of Reason" by Thomas Paine, or to read some of Jefferson's choice quotes about the usefulness of churches. :)
I take particular offense to the idea that atheism is an "anything goes" approach to moral guidance. It's not that at all, it simply rejects the idea that morality is derived from a god, or that there were no morals before 2000 years ago. (Or that everyone prior to 2000 years ago will burn in hell because they were unfortunate enough to be born before they could be 'saved'.) Why, also, do so many atheist seem to converge on the same set of moral values if it really is 'anything goes'? Don't let him get away with telling you that God instills it in us either. That argument would invalidate the entire need to have a religion that tells you what your morals are in the first place. If morals are instilled, then they don't need to be taught. Atheists tend to converge, morally at least, because we all tend to ask the same question eventually. "Why would I hurt someone in some way if I wouldn't find it acceptable for them to do the same?" I don't punch you and take your money because I have empathy, meaning I can envision myself in that person's position and make a determination as to what actions of mine would be acceptable if they happened to myself. Personally, I can not take moral dictates from anyone/anything that could command a person to kill their child just to prove their loyalty. (Even if he/she/it didn't make them follow through, it is still immoral to even make the request.)
As to the accuracy of the statement; he starts with doubt, ironically. He then makes a positive assertion that not even a significant percentage of atheists would agree with the quote you've posted. Ask him to site a single study to that effect. More than that, although i don't have the direct link right now, studies HAVE been made of happiness and social programs in countries with relation to their religious beliefs. Surprise, surprise, the countries with the highest percentage of atheists also have the most aggressive social programs and the most favorable responses with regards to happiness. He is also clearly arguing from emotion, because his next statement is one of dismissiveness towards O'Hair and his belief that prayer does not belong in schools. I've heard this dismissiveness before in person and it always comes with a healthy intonation of resentment.
Sorry, I'm rambling now, but his argument was poor on so many points that it irked me deeply.
I am about to write my response to Neal using some of what I know and a lot of what you all have shared thus far. Thanks for the continued help. I am also going to update this post with the conversation/debate thus far. It turns out that a few of my friends have posted in response to Neal as well.
Just updated Neal's reply.
I don't think that it gets better than that in terms of the brakes coming on. Water... over... my... head!
Check out the declaration of independance for references to "God" and "Creator"

Does he seriously think that references in the Declaration is proof of the USA being a Christian nation? First of all, the Declaration only asserted our Independence from Britain. The Constitution formed the law of the USA. Secondly, the references he mentioned are not explicit Christian. Any religion could claim them. They were actually, most likely Deist references. Jefferson was a Deist was the chief author of the Declaration. A man that was definitely not Christian and didn't believe Jesus to be a God or the son of any God.
True, many of the founders were Deists. They believed in a creator, but not an actively involved god that mingled in the lives of people. They also rejected organized religion as a man-made and disingenuous.
The Declaration is not the Constitution. The constitution was also clarified by the bill of rights later in order to reinforce the secularity of the, at the time, newly formed government. Also the sole reference to a 'creator' in the Declaration was an attempt to appeal to an authority that was outside Brittain's. Once the break was made from Brittain, the country was framed as intentionally secular.
I have a simple answer for anybody that claims to draw their molal comas form the bible.
Have you even read it? Because if you have and you actually use it as a moral compass I am very surprised you are not in prison.

The bible is a book that condones all kinds of atrocity, from genocide and mass rape to selling your children as sex slaves.

Oh wait a minute. I now see how that aligns with US foreign policy and treatment of its own citizens. I guess it is the moral compass for the US government anyway!
Of course you could just show another famous atheist's perspective on morals. George Carling was a great man.
If he were not rotting away now I'm sure he would be looking down on us and laughing.:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzEs2nj7iZM
Imagine where our country would be if it were founded on Christian principals:


Scary Huh?
I'm sure there are hundreds of people who would have no problem blindly believing this is someone claimed it. Yes, that is very scary.

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