I've left church, and I'm concerned with some things now.

Hello to all TA inhibitors. Hope everyone is having a great 2012 so far. 

Late last month I posted a blog about me thinking about leaving a church group I was attending for almost a year. Well, I've left. I haven't ditched anyone's friendship since I still enjoy their company very much. I've told a few people whom I were close to in the church group about my departure. Some of the things they've said to me are things I'm very curious in learning about. One of my friends stated the following: Atheists have no foundation of morality, but since many of them are moral, that is just God working through them. Another one of my friends stated the following: Since Atheists are morally anarchic, I am not a true Atheist, but a Christian in denial (I guess?) about the Truth of God.

There's a few things in these statements that interest me: (1) moral foundation(s) of Atheism; (2) Christian concept of free will; (3) any/all logical fallacies that may be at work here.

Looking for some tips on how to go about tackling these issues. If anyone could help me in any way, it would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for reading,

- Branden 

Views: 558

Comment by Paul Jones on January 10, 2012 at 4:57am

My quick response would be that the morality the Christians would claim to be god given was created by man anyway, along with the rest of the bible, so the reverse is actually true, what the Christian claim is "god working through you" is actually "humanity working through you".

Comment by Ed on January 10, 2012 at 8:51am

"Atheists have no foundation of morality, but since many of them are moral, that is just God working through them."

Morals are older than religion. It is a part of our psychological evolution as a species.  Early humanoids in order to survive had to interact and cooperate with others. This early spirit of cooperation is the basis of our modern day moral system. God working through us is, of course, a bunch of green baloney.

Comment by james d on January 10, 2012 at 9:04am

1) morality is not just found in humans, as many mammals have some sense of group life and thus have codes of acceptable behaviour within them. there is nothing unique about human desire to live in the context of society and thus morality allows us to do that. it is not 'god' telling us how to live as religious contexts for morality are often vastly different than how a society actually lives. we use 2 of the 10 commandments in our daily lives, don't steal and don't kill, but why did god not tell us to not rape as well? or not have sex with children? are those not 'immoral' as well? could the all-knowing god NOT have mentioned those at some point?

2) the christian concept of free will is NOT found anywhere in scripture but is a theological explaination of why men can't always do what god told them to. in reality, there is NO free will as we are creatures of habit and conditioning more than choice. there are lots of resources on this one if you google it!

3) your friends state "Atheists have no foundation of morality, but since many of them are moral, that is just God working through them. Another one of my friends stated the following: Since Atheists are morally anarchic," first, ask them to prove both statements before you even bother to respond as they have no clue as to what they are talking about but are parroting some other christians teaching on what atheists are and believe. atheists are simply 'a' - not 'theists' or not accepting of a theist point of view or don't accept that any god exists. all christians are atheists in regard to zeus, apollo, hera, allah, yet believe in the 'one true god' based on very little real evidence. to claim an atheist is an anarchist as well requires proof as i don't know many atheists that live to toss out all forms of government and law and order just because they don't believe the claims of any deity! get them to clarify why they believe that, and if they say 'because my pastor says so' then the discussion is over before it starts!

Comment by Elisha K. on January 10, 2012 at 9:25am

I can just expand on the first question, as a way to really narrow it down, using a bit of science (thought they might reject it). Morality comes from our evolutionary need to protect the group. Like James D said, many mammals protect each other. Have you ever seen Elephants gather around their young? Most people, according to their "design" (to put it in christian friendly terms) would rather see a person succeed than fail because it helps the group (human kind). We don't maim and kill one another (for the most part) because it is in our genetic make up to further our race. Ask them to tell you honestly: Is their deity the only thing keeping them from going on a rampage? From murdering someone? If so, is that true morality? Or, are they good because they are just good people? 

Remember, (James D started to say it). Before the Ten Commandments, people were already not stealing, not killing etc. The Commandments didn't make morality...morality made the commandments. 

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on January 10, 2012 at 1:00pm

Firstly well done on leaving the church!! It may not be evident to you yet as to how good a move that is but when you look back in a few months time and realise how far you have progressed without it you will.

As James D says, it is worth asking for proof (or a little evidence) that Atheists are “morally anarchic”. It is very common for believers to make similar sweeping statements without thinking through them. They are generally just repeating what they hear from the pulpit or the monthly magazine.

The friendships will change. Once Christians realise you don’t believe what they believe things changes. Rather than think about why you left they may become antagonist towards you or may back away completely. It is mainly because your departure creates confusion which leads to doubts and fears in their own minds. Could you be right and we wrong????

It may also be worthwhile not to engage in lengthy debates with them, especially when they send the church elders after you. This approach may help.

Check out Hitch. The last line (watch it all !!!) is to be used when discussing morals with xtians.

Comment by M on January 10, 2012 at 1:48pm

Ed, James D, and Rich really laid it out there.  Biologically, we needed some ground rules to further our species and protect the group (and thus ourselves).  As for Biblical morals, I'd turn around and ask your friends about that one.  Do they mean condoning rape?  Kidnapping?  Murder?  Which morals did they pick up from the Bible?  Oh, only the good ones?  Well, who said they could pick and choose at will?  Isn't that defying God?  Don't let them confuse you with religio-babble.  Hit 'em with some logic and watch them curl up into the fetal position.  They will probably also end it with this, "Well, I'll be praying for you!"

Comment by Andrew Strout on January 10, 2012 at 3:27pm

Evolution and natural selection pretty much destroys any and all immoral acts in nature.  If one or more animals in a group or herd acts "immorally" or out of the social norm, then the others will weed them out by not breeding with them or killing them.  Natural selection at its finest.  Unfortunately, humans wanted to claim responsibility for being moral and decided to write them down in accordance with their religion (which is also probably an evolutionary trait as well, but that is a topic for an entirely new discussion) and then tell anyone who doesn't believe in their religion that they are immoral and they must be purged.

Comment by Albert Bakker on January 10, 2012 at 4:57pm

What exactly is a 'foundation' of morality that Christianity should possess and none other?

Is it a set of revelations of axioms (commandments, which as Elisha implied were unsurprisingly  long known even in prescriptive form) and a few parables as a teaching guide how to apply them? It can't be that all moral prescriptions of how to act in such and such cases are to be followed as it is all too easy to point at the advocacy of deplorable to utterly disgusting ethics in the Bible.

So the normative applicability of the Bible as foundation of morality is rather limited and arbitrary. On what basis does a Christian decide, given this arbitrariness, what is ethically sound and what isn't. It cannot be based solely on the Bible for said reasons.

The Christian answer would be that the 'old covenant' of (some version of) the ten commandments is obsolete, declared void an null, and replaced with the "new covenant." That actually has no concrete rules at all but consists of (unrevealed) laws "put in the minds" and "written in the hearts" of the Christian (Hebrews 6.) So in other words, the foundation of Christian morality is simply this: "as a Christian you just know."

In fact this is the right answer. Only it isn't based on some God putting stuff in their heads and spraying graffiti on their hearts. They base their knowledge of right an wrong on the same 'foundation' of morality that the rest of non-Christian humanity bases theirs on, which is consequential to the interdependency of natural (species-specific evolutionarily determined) ethics and cultural ethics, which is itself subject to evolution also. It is an enormously complicated subject in itself, covering a wide variety of subareas: meta-ethics, descriptive ethics, neuroscience of ethics and so forth.

But anyway part of it you learn and part of it is biologically determined. And when you suffer from a set of specific defects of your brain (specifically with certain areas of your frontal cortex) it can go wrong, and you really don't know right from wrong, or have difficulty discerning where the difference lies in certain situations etc. This happens whether you are a Christian or not, that difference is of no consequence.

Comment by Michael Gage on January 10, 2012 at 9:14pm

I think one issue that's implicit in the discussion here is that something like "atheists have no morality" ought to be considered a conclusion requiring premises and definitions. It doesn't sound like your friends offered any real arguments; rather, they just made an assertion that the vast majority of ethical philosophers would simply laugh at for its idiocy. I would ask them just what they mean by morality and then dig down into those answers to achieve clarity. My guess is that they either mean something that can be accounted for perfectly well without invoking deities (i.e., psychological reactions) or they mean something tautological that requires invoking God. If they mean the latter, then the problems are too numerous to mention here, but I could probably find some links, if interested.

Comment by Stutz on January 11, 2012 at 2:02am

There are evolutionary biological reasons for humans to be prone to morality, but there are common sense reasons, too. We're raised in a society. We have loving relationships. We have empathy, and we have logic. None of that "disappears" when you stop believing in God. The only morality that one might lose is of the political, controversial type that is only propped up by religious dogma: the anti-gay, anti-abortion, uptight about sexual matters kind of morality. (That's not to say you couldn't still have these opinions as an atheist, they just wouldn't be religious-based, and I think it's safe to say most atheists find them to be lacking logical support.)

I'll be honest, here: once I left the church and its social pressures, my volunteering hours dwindled to almost zero. I think you do lose some of that sort of thing, partly because you lose some of those easy opportunities, but I would argue it doesn't make you a less moral person inside. Far from it.


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