Wednesday, 1 January 2014

No Longer A Christian Nation

Flickering and Fading: St John's Presbyterian Church, Herbert, North Otago. Fifty years ago its pews were full. Today it stands as a mute and largely empty memorial to the Christian nation New Zealand used to be. Photo by Don Donovan.
 
NEW ZEALAND is no longer a Christian nation. The results of the 2013 Census confirm the steep decline in the Christian religion since 1996. Seventeen years ago 63.8 percent of New Zealanders belonged to the Christian faith. The latest census results put that figure at 44.5 percent.
 
Christians may snatch a scrap of solace from the fact that those unequivocally declaring themselves to have “No Religion” represent an even smaller minority (37 percent) of the New Zealand population. But nothing can hide the fact that the Christian religious tradition which has underpinned our nation’s culture since colonisation, is rapidly diminishing. Indeed, if the rate of decline of the past 17 years is repeated over the next 17, then by 2030 barely a quarter of Kiwis will still call themselves Christians.
 
Does it matter? Should we be worried, or relieved, that we Kiwis are an altogether more secular and sceptical bunch than the Americans – two-thirds of whom reject Darwin’s theory of evolution in favour of ancestors fashioned by the Almighty out of dust and clay?
 
Is it not more reassuring to know that nearly 40 percent of us remain unmoved by religious belief, than to contemplate a religious establishment so strong that within the living memory of most New Zealanders it wielded a power sufficient to sway governments and outlaw “sin”?
 
I am certainly glad that a dour and embittered Protestantism no longer holds sway over much of suburban New Zealand. And I rejoice that generations of young working-class girls and boys are no longer expected to make sense of their urban neighbourhoods through an incense-laden fog of saintly superstition and clerical bigotry.
 
I am proud to be part of that vast generation, the Baby Boomers, who dared to call the religious establishment to account for its sins. Not religious sins, you understand, but for the moral crimes born of unchallenged authority and heartless hierarchy. For the lies that were told; the cruelties inflicted; the young souls twisted by sectarian hatred; the old souls unredeemed by Christian love.
 
Right by human right we pillaged the Christian establishment: the right to contraception; the right to abortion; the right to love a member of the same sex (and, eventually, to marry them) the right to express oneself sexually without religious condemnation or secular punishment; and, finally, that most important of all human rights: the right to seek for the meaning and purpose of human existence on our own terms, and using the whole of the natural universe as our bible.
 
And yet, in perusing the Census data, I have also experienced an uneasy feeling of loss: of slowly drifting away from familiar shores.
 
In my mind’s eye, running like a family video, are memories of the past, of my childhood, flickering and fading. Of a little limestone church in Herbert, North Otago. Of the farming families and their children, all wearing their Sunday best. Of the low murmur of the organ; voices raised in song; and simple New Testament sermons about love and forgiveness.
 
I recall my years at Sunday School and learning the Bible’s many stories: Moses and the burning bush; David vanquishing Goliath; Daniel in the lions’ den; Jacob wrestling with the angel; Joseph and his coat of many colours. And, every December, I remember, the familiar stories and carols of Christmas. Mary and Joseph and their long journey to Bethlehem. The Magi and their search for the one foretold, Emmanuel, meaning “God is with us”. The shepherds keeping watch in the fields by night. The Heavenly Host singing “Glory to God in the Highest!”
 
I remember them all, and that little community, glowing through the lengthening summer shadows with peace and goodwill.
 
And I ask myself, as we sail away from all those little churches, those devout congregations, those simple sermons of love and redemption: “Quo vadis?”
 
I ask it of myself; of my family and friends; of my entire and beloved country, New Zealand:
 
“Quo vadis? Whither goest thou?”
 
This essay was originally published in The Dominion Post, The Otago Daily Times, The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 20 December 2013.

32 comments:

Tiger Mountain said...

In the tradition of long distance column writers you have answered some of your own ponderings. Numbers are hanging low and trending down brother.

Even as an atheist this is of some concern. I am agin religion for two main reasons–it is generally anti woman and indoctrinates young children before they have the means to properly determine their own world view.

But is the alternative much less evil? Disempowered individuals worshipping/despising themselves as they shop.

The bucolic small churches are an illusory comfort to the likes of me, but a real one to adherents. Times are interesting indeed when the Pope has to deny he is a marxist! But all in all Christianity will wither away.

Brendan said...

Chris

As others have opined, "if there is no God, everything is permitted." Nihilism is the only rational outcome following the social and cultural deconstruction we are pursuing in the west.

While I'm pessimistic about the future of organised religion, I'm optimistic about the Christian faith. Jesus is not planning to exit history with a whimper.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"if there is no God, everything is permitted."

Brendan. This is pure and utter bullshit. There was morality before religion, there will be morality after religion. In fact humans are hardwired to be moral, because it helped us survive in our small groups. If you check the figures, there are far fewer atheists in prison than there are people of faith. So obviously religious people are far less moral than the religious :-). If you want to ascribe your morals to some mythical sky fairy fine. But I ascribe mind to a rich humanistic tradition and regard for my others. You can easily be good without God.

Richard Christie said...

Nihilism held up as undesirable by a supporter of neoliberal policy.
What a gem.
lol.

Brendan said...

@GS "humans are hardwired to be moral"

Really? Who did the 'hard wiring'? *chuckle*.

It comes down to this. If we are just a bunch of atoms drifting through space and time in an impersonal universe, then there is no 'morality' no external universal law that governs human behaviour.

Murder and theft are simply names we give to the rearranging of atoms in an impersonal universe. What possible basis could you have for saying saying these actions were good or bad, right or wrong.

Who made you judge of all the earth?

"if there is no God, everything is permitted."

Victor said...

Guerilla Surgeon

There are many things that evolution has hard-wired into humanity that are not at all reconcilable with currently fashionable moral nostrums.

True, just like our great ape cousins, we tend to have mushy, warm feelings of solidarity towards most members of our little platoon for most of the time, even if we don’t spend quite as much effort as Cousin Chimp does in picking nits out of the hair of extended family members.

But, just like Cousin Chimp, we’re capable of cheating, stealing, engaging in pack rape and devouring our own children. And that’s just within our little platoon.

As far as outsiders are concerned, our default position is, of course, warfare.

So, if the natural occurrence of mushy solidarity within the group is morally normative, should this not also be the case for these other naturally occurring behaviours? And, if not, why not?

Moreover, if we reject the natural occurrence of such behaviours as the reason for their normativeness, what other criterion could there be for declaring some behaviours “good” and other behaviours “bad”? Indeed, do such concepts have any meaning?

So why should a modern, rational person, aware of the evolutionary origins of the moralistic stances conventionally taken by apparently less enlightened members of our species, not conclude that “everything is permitted”, provided you don’t get found out?

And how certain can we be that humans won’t start regarding everything as permitted, once the ethical sediments left behind by the receding tide of religious belief have been dissolved by the passage of just a couple of generations?

Meanwhile, could the apparent shortage of atheists in our prison population merely reflect a justice/penal system that tends to imprison the economically underprivileged in disproportionate numbers?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Brendan, there are plenty of well thought out and well researched ethical systems that do not rely on gods. If you did that funny stuff called research – I have mentioned it before remember – you would find some. Morality is based on mutual respect and trust, which we have evolved over time without any input from gods. So your question "who did the hardwiring?" is irrelevant. As I said, there is a far smaller proportion of atheists in prison than religious people. A question you have not addressed. It would seem to suggest to me that we atheists are more the ethical of the two. I guarantee that as a Christian you do not believe in any of the Hindu gods, or the ancient Maori gods, or Norse gods. We atheists just take it one God further :-).

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I suspect our default position on strangers is more suspicion than outright warfare, but researchers shown that one's group can be extended until it is quite large – like a nation. And if we are hardwired, we don't necessarily think about what we're doing we just do it. Not to mention that religious people, for all their prescribing, seem to manage to do all sorts of awful things to each other and to outsiders, so I don't think religion is necessary a cure for immorality by any stretch of the imagination. I think you're partially right about atheists in prison, but if atheism were to spread, it would mean an increase in education, productivity, health, and general well-being. So there :-).

peter petterson said...

Maybe, Chris. Maybe! The young are moving to those evangelical -type religions leaving us old codgers to go to funerals in old protestant churches. In a few short years I will be thinking about life beyond? Not being Christian is not necessarily Godless you know!

Victor said...

Guerilla Surgeon

Thanks for your stimulating response.

A few points:

“I suspect our default position on strangers is more suspicion than outright warfare”

I don’t think either the anthropological evidence or the zoological (i.e. concerning our kindred species) supports your argument.

“ but researchers shown that one's group can be extended until it is quite large – like a nation.”

And, thus far, this has led to fewer wars but to much bloodier ones, a point worth recalling as we commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of World War One.

“And if we are hardwired, we don't necessarily think about what we're doing we just do it.”

That’s the problem. We do all sorts of things, some nice but many nasty.

But why, in the absence of divinely ordained moral absolutes, should we consider the nice ones to be nice and the nasty ones to be nasty?

And why should we feel obliged to forswear the nasty and cleave to the nice?

Moreover, the fact that we just do something is not a philosophically valid reason for doing it.

“Not to mention that religious people, for all their prescribing, seem to manage to do all sorts of awful things to each other and to outsiders”

Indeed. As do the non-religious. For every Torquemada there’s a Stalin. We’re just Mr Chimp’s cousins. So what else would you expect?

“ so I don't think religion is necessary a cure for immorality by any stretch of the imagination”

How can you begin to talk about immorality unless you have some concept (religious or more broadly philosophical) of what morality is and why there is an obligation on us to adhere to it?

And isn't the establishment of grounds for ethical obligation an essential part of any refutation of the Nihilist position?

“ if atheism were to spread, it would mean an increase in education, productivity, health, and general well-being”

Your evidence for this being?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Victor, we have evolved to cooperate in groups. People who cooperate towards a common end and who are unselfish tend to survive better than people who don't. That's how we judge the nice ones from the nasty ones. Small children instinctively know this, long before they can guess the concepts around religion they have a concept of fairness.

There's plenty of research that shows this if you care to look. And as I said this in group can be extended, perhaps not to infinity but to encompass a very large number of people.

And religious morality is not necessarily that moral. Just about every holy book I've ever read contains something that I find morally abhorrent, but it's okay because it's directed at someone either outside the religion or who interferes in some way with the religion. After all, wasn't it a Christian who said "Kill them all, God will know his own."?
There is also plenty of research by atheist philosophers which go into atheist ethics in some detail. If you are interested I suggest you start with Paul Kurtz, who has written extensively about this. You seem to think that atheists have not thought this through. We have met your questions and objections many times before, and have answered them. You just need to get out of your comfort zone a bit and read about it. Actually most of us don't rate the questions very highly anyway :-).
I must confess that some of the stuff I say about atheists and prisons and other things around there I say mostly to annoy fundamentalists. But the fact that there are few atheists in jails, particularly in America where they actually ask them their religious affiliation when they enter the system, somehow suggests to me that atheists can be ethical. In fact it completely negates the idea that you need religion to be moral. So many people say that atheists believe in nothing and therefore cannot be. Complete crap They are also better educated, and more productive, because we are rational, believe in science and are less superstitious. This I would take to be a good thing. :-)

Brendan said...

Hi GS

I have refrained from commenting because Victor has been doing such a good job of addressing your points. However, you wrote:

"Small children instinctively ...have a concept of fairness."

This is because God spoke in the book of Jeremiah 31:33

“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts."

That's why we have an inbuilt moral code, a sense of fairness, of right and wrong.

However, I sense you have deeply missed the philosophical point both Victor and I have laboured to make. That is without God, we are no more than random atoms in an impersonal universe. Human life therefore has no more cosmic meaning than a stone, or a lump of primeval slime.

The fact that you attribute value to your life, or to the lives of others, is frankly meaningless. What if I don't? Who are you to say I'm wrong? To what external source do you make your appeal?

Who in the cosmos is listening? There is only silence.

Your opinions are relegated to the subjective, and are without authority beyond your own personal experience. Your time spent opining on this blog is meaningless, wasted, pointless.

There is only nihilism and death.

That is the logical outcome of your atheism.

Of course that's complete nonsense because even your conscience tells you otherwise. You have made a case, albeit a humble one, for a moral law that is external to which you appeal, a moral law that is somehow universal, that is common to mankind, perhaps best evidenced in children.

You state this as a fact, but provide no philosophical basis for its existence. You gladly eat the fruit of the tree but deny the tree's existence.

You claim to be rational, but give no rational explanation for the morality you claim is common to humanity. No rational explanation, no philosophical base, just a coat hanger in the sky.

Just a coat hanger in the sky.





Guerilla Surgeon said...

Brendan : "we are no more than random atoms in an impersonal universe. Human life therefore has no more cosmic meaning than a stone, or a lump of primeval slime."
So? That doesn't mean to say that there is no meaning in life, there is society, there is culture, there is family.
As for intellectual and philosophical basis, I did provide you with the beginnings of a reading list, as I said we have heard all this before and I'm a little bit tired of debating it with people who use circular reasoning, argument from authority, and various other logical fallacies. Science at least admits what it doesn't know. All I said was there is no evidence for gods. You have provided me with any except for bald statements that there are. And if we're talking about philosophical bases, where is your philosophical basis for God put morality into kids minds? Apart from an appeal to authority from a book written by Bronze Age shepherds. :-) You have provided no argument as to why atheists are so moral if we so nihilistic. Goodness me, you'd think we'd be filling up the prisons, because we have no moral compass. Yet we don't. We tend to obey the laws of the land far better than Christians.

Victor said...

Guerrilla Surgeon

Let me assure you that there's nothing remotely comfortable about living with Ivan Karamazov’s challenge.

So, if you could actually explain why, in the absence of God, all things are not permitted, I would be very grateful. And so, no doubt, would countless others.

The sins of religion, actual or perceived, have nothing to do with this issue. Nor do the ethical attitudes (actual or perceived) that you ascribe, inter alia, to both atheists and children.

Being merely human, I obviously can’t claim to have read every word ever written on this topic. Nor, however, am I completely unread.

In my experience, most recent atheistic writing on ethics concerns itself either with their content or their genealogy rather than with the issue of obligation.

There’s also a tendency to turn “is” into “ought” on a conveniently selective basis. There are, however, notable exceptions to this latter generalisation, Dawkins being one of them.

Meanwhile, I note your acknowledgment that atheists tend not to “rate” issues such as obligation. But I can’t see how you can have a world view that is both rational and ethical without this concept.

Rightly or wrongly, it seems to me that you’re seeking either to dismiss an inconvenient question with bombast or to brush it under the carpet.


Brendan

I share your areas of doubt but by no means all your areas of certainty.

But one thing is undeniable: your rhetoric has taken flight magnificently!

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Victor, firstly you misattributed the saying. It was Sartre in fact who first said it, and it's only approximated in the Brothers Karamazov. There are various philosophical justifications for morality being either intrinsic or from evolution, or - based on reason. Aristotle did it. Personally I'm not interested in repeating myself yet again. I seem to spend a lot of time arguing with fundamentalist Christians about this and to be honest I'm tired of it. So do the reading yourself. You could read the Nocomachean ethics, (if I remember my undergraduate philosophy) you could read some of the Sophists. You could as I suggested read Paul Kurtz, but there is even a book entitled "Good Without God" I'm sure you could find that on Amazon.

Secondly, if we accept that you can't be good without God, then whose God and whose rules to we follow? Because they have been over the years remarkably different. About the only thing they have in common usually is a vague injunction to do is you would be done by. Which IMO is common sense rather than a startling insight from God. I repeat, empathy and altruism are inbuilt, and I don't see a need for a God here. In fact what you are doing is indulging in the 'God of the gaps' where you don't know so you are entitled to insert your sky fairy.

Perhaps you could address a couple of points for me, I would gladly accept a reading list. Firstly, why should we follow the Christian God's morality, when he routinely punishes people for other people's sins and orders children to be "dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open".
Secondly, if we cannot be moral without God, how did the human race survive all that time before religion established itself? Were we completely immoral, was everything permitted then? If they were kept in line by sheer ignorant superstition, then that doesn't make a great case for your particular God.
And again I would ask, if to atheists everything is permitted, why are we not all in jail, or in institutions? As I said we tend to obey the law, we tend to be moral more than Christians do.
If God is necessary for morality, why did Christians constantly have to excuse the things that their co-believers do? I get a little bit sick of the no true Scotsman defence, and "God works in mysterious ways" you would think that God as an omnipotent being could communicate his desires a little better, so as to cause less confusion as to how we are to behave.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Incidentally Brendan, why do you quote the Bible to an atheist? You realise we don't believe in it right?

Victor said...

Guerilla Surgeon

The Brothers Karamazov was completed in 1880. Sartre was born in 1905.

Yes, the phrase was only approximated in the work. That’s largely because Dostoyevsky wrote in Russian and not English.

And, yes, I’m acquainted with many (though by no means all) of the attempts that better minds than mine or yours have made to square the circle of how ethical obligation can exist outside of a morally determined universe. Despite more than half a century of intermittent study, I’ve yet to be convinced by any of them. But I continue to read and cogitate and, who knows, I might yet find a satisfactory explanation.

Meanwhile, I’ve never said that we can’t be good without God. I merely question whether the concept of good has any objective meaning in such a context. I’m amazed that you still haven’t grasped that distinction. I would, however, certainly acknowledge a less sanguine view of human “goodness” than possessed by either you or Brendan, in your different ways

I don’t know why you want me to furnish you with a reading list on Christianity. I’m not a Christian and have not been defending Christianity or any other religion (that’s another conversation). I really do think you could have read my posts more carefully and with fewer preconceptions.

As to the survival to date of the human species, I suspect it’s due in no small part to characteristics that are as alien to the desiderata of modern secular humanism as to those of the main current religious traditions. Obviously, you don’t need to be good to survive, unless you regard the ability to do so as a good thing per se (irrespective of the any harm you may do to others).

Your question as to why Atheists aren’t all in prison merely serves to emphasise your apparent inability to distinguish between philosophy on the one hand and psychology and social and cultural history on the other hand. It does make arguing with you a frustrating and annoying activity.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"in the absence of God, all things are not permitted"

Why? Perhaps I have misunderstood your question, perhaps I don't know the difference between philosophy and just about anything else. Perhaps I'm dumb. But in fact, your question is a complete irrelevance. Because we don't need gods to be good, because the absence of gods makes no difference, only the presence. Because morality is a series of mutual obligations and claims we make on each other, and because why on earth would you need God to tell you not to shove a little old lady under a bus? I'm sorry, it's a stupid question, because philosophy itself is almost irrelevant in this case. Your inability to recognise this makes you an equally frustrating debating partner. Philosophy, in the form of religion gives us all sorts of moralities some of which are evil. Left alone, we tend to not throw a little old ladies under buses. The responsibility lies with us, and we tend to use it wisely.

Chris Trotter said...

I'll probably regret entering this debate, Guerilla Surgeon, but I just can't forbear from alerting readers to the anthropological/historical fact that human-beings have demonstrated a persistent allegiance to the idea of the divine for at least 10,000 years.

Atheism, once again historically, is a belief system associated with urban civilisations in which philosophical speculation, if not actually encouraged, was, at least, tolerated by the political authorities (e.g. Ancient Athens and Rome, Classical Alexandria and, later, the Italian city-states).

The growth of atheism as a belief system, and its escape from the confines of an educated elite, is very much a late-twentieth century and early twenty-first century phenomenon.

Whether it remains a permanent feature of post-twentieth century cultural life, or is overtaken by some form of religious revival (essential, I would say, if climate change is to be effectively tackled) only the historians of the future will be able to answer.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

religious revival (essential, I would say, if climate change is to be effectively tackled)

Not quite sure what you mean here Chris. You think a religious revival is necessary to tackle climate change? Or the opposite? Because it's the religious right that seems to be hampering tackling climate change in the U.S. at least, and in fact everywhere :-).

Victor said...

Guerilla Surgeon

Well, perhaps I'm wrong in thinking that a philosophical statement should be discussed philosophically.

And perhaps dear old Socrates was wrong and an unexamined life is indeed worth living.

Live and enjoy!

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Victor, if a philosophical statement is irrelevant, it probably shouldn't be discussed at all. Are you saying I haven't examined my life? I suspect atheists examine their lives far more than people of faith. And if I seemed to be avoiding your question, you certainly have avoided my central question, if there is no moral compass, how come so few atheists disobey the laws? That, is distinctly relevant to your question. In a practical rather than an airy fairy way.

Brendan said...

@ GS – We agree that humans have a moral compass. We differ on its origin.

Why do Western Atheists not live as though ‘all things are permitted’ ? Because we live in a culture that has been informed and shaped by Judeo / Christian thought for over 1,000 years.

Atheists are just as influenced by culture as Christians are. That is to say, you have absorbed the social ‘norms’ that have been generated by over a thousand years of Western history. Your moral compass owes more to Christianity past, than to Atheism present.

Victor’s point however is very relevant, as I too doubt that our moral compass will continue to point true north as the last vestiges of faith are washed out of the public domain and our national consciousness.

In Bangladesh last year up to 500,000 Muslims marched in the streets demanding the death penalty for Atheism. That’s what happens in a culture that is formed by an alternative religious worldview.

The Soviet Union was a society where Atheism was the official religion. Stalin's actions tell us that he believed ‘all things were permitted’. This is the fruit of Atheism fully formed.

Richard Christie said...

Brendan says

You claim to be rational, but give no rational explanation for the morality you claim is common to humanity. No rational explanation, no philosophical base, just a coat hanger in the sky

Yet his own conclusions and assertions in this thread rely entirely upon proclamations drawn from a set of bronze age books, proclamations that are overwhelmingly made devoid of any evidential support.

And to Chris. Even atheists argue over definitions of atheism, your assertion that it is a belief system is simply an opinion- and not shared, I suspect, by most who choose to call themselves atheists.

Victor said...

Crikey GS!

Don't you ever give up!

Replying to your latest post:

“if a philosophical statement is irrelevant, it probably shouldn't be discussed at all.”

Why then did you enter the fray over it and why do you keep posting attempted ripostes?

Besides it’s you and not I who are declaring the statement in question to be irrelevant.

“ Are you saying I haven't examined my life?

You may or may not have done. But your stance is that philosophical examination (as opposed to other kinds) is “airy fairy”. So you obviously have a reluctance to examine your life in the sense that Socrates used the term. That consideration is, anyhow, probably irrelevant to you, which is fine by me.

“I suspect atheists examine their lives far more than people of faith.”

Perhaps yes and perhaps no. I don’t see how you can possibly say one way or other.

My observation, for what it’s worth, is that most atheists in current day Western societies are more than averagely reflective people but that those who take up the cudgels for their cause on the internet are not. But that’s just an impressionistic view and of no huge significance one way or the other.

Moreover, just because someone’s reflective, it doesn’t mean that their beliefs, actions or lack of action will stem logically from clearly thought-out and consistent philosophic premises.

“ And if I seemed to be avoiding your question, you certainly have avoided my central question, if there is no moral compass, how come so few atheists disobey the laws?”

It’s actually beyond me to answer that question as I’m neither a criminologist nor a social-psychologist.

Besides, none of us knows to what extent people of various belief systems disobey the laws, even if we might have some idea of percentages within our corrections system.

With respect to the latter, my uneducated guess would be that the comparative shortage of atheists in New Zealand prisons might simply reflect the high percentage of Maori and Pasifika inmates, who tend to come from more religious communities.

And, referring to your earlier post, whilst we don’t throw old ladies under busses, other things that are just as bad happen daily in less happy parts of our planet.

Moreover, some pretty awful things also happen within our own society, with the victims being disproportionately the very old and the very young.

I wish I could share your and Brendan’s assumption of human benignity. But, alas, I can’t.

Brendan said...

@RC

“Yet his own conclusions and assertions in this thread rely entirely upon proclamations drawn from a set of bronze age books”,

The bronze age ended around 1,000 BC. The writings of the New Testament obviously post date that period.

“proclamations that are overwhelmingly made devoid of any evidential support.”

Actually that’s not the case. In the 21st centaury we rely upon the testimony of witnesses to confirm guilt or innocence in a court of law. Men who lived with Christ for three years, who saw him killed and buried, and who spoke to him after his resurrection recorded their testimony in the Gospels we have today.

They could have colluded to lie about it of course, however I can assure you that the Jews of the day were very keen to refute the resurrection. If it were possible they would have left no stone unturned to prove it was a lie.

And then there is the inconvenient testimony of people like myself, millions of us, who claim to have encountered Christ in such a real way that if necessary, like the Christians of Syria, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan today, we would rather die for our faith as martyrs than deny the person of Christ.

Disbelieve if you will, but you have a lot of evidence to ignore if you choose to do so.

Brendan said...

Hi Victor

You said: "I wish I could share your and Brendan’s assumption of human benignity. But, alas, I can’t."

I'm not sure how I gave you that impression, but my perception of humanity is very similar to that of Jeremiah 'The heart (of man) is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?'

And then there is Jesus testimony in John 2:24 "But Jesus did not trust himself to them because he knew all men."

And then there is the daily news.....

I'm an optimist, but not in regard to human nature.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Victor, if there are few atheists in jail, then obviously not all is permitted without God. I'd of thought that was self-evident philosophical or not. What keeps us from breaking the law is largely irrelevant. With religious people, it might be God, but they commit numerous crimes so he doesn't do a very good job. With atheist it may well be fear of the law or some inbuilt ethics, I suspect a bit of both. If I don't give up, it's because I seem to have to spend a certain amount of my free time being insulted and consigned to hell by fundamentalists, and answering their stupid questions/remarks. Perhaps I am just used to a more robust debating style, because nothing seems to get through to them.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Brendan, to say that atheists live the life they do because of the influence of Christianity is just a little bit inconsistent. You've already said that the result of atheism is that anything is permitted. Atheists do not do "anything" nearly as much as Christians. And there's a little bit of the God of the gaps in there too – we don't know what the reason is so we'll just insert our sky fairy here :-). I think Western civilisation owes far more to the Enlightenment, because before that it was quite common for people to be slaughtered because they were of a different religion, even by Christians. Have you never studied the European wars of religion? Or the Crusades? Or the Inquisition? Many of the people who took part in the Holocaust were devout Christians. I suspect it helped them ease their consciences, as they were killing "nonmembers". In fact Moslems have been a little bit more tolerant of people like Jews traditionally speaking. It was the Enlightenment that gave us the tolerance to tolerate atheism. Bangladesh probably hasn't been exposed to this :-). And as for Stalin, on the contrary in Soviet Russia almost nothing was permitted :-). And if Stalin was anti-religion, it probably have more to do with the fact that he saw it as competition for power rather than his atheism. I'm really glad you didn't mention Hitler – he was of course a Catholic :-).

Richard Christie said...

And then there is Jesus testimony in John 2:24

There you go again Brendan, waving your hands and pointing at your book, albeit this time the iron age section.

Understand, revelation isn't evidence.

And then it is written in the holy Quran...

And so Krisha proclaimed...

and then there is the Flying Spaghetti Monster's testimony in The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster..

Your should also understand that assertions regarding morality and atheism are both arrogant and insulting to those that don't share your belief system. Such attitudes also contribute to the reasons that ever growing numbers reject christian theism.

Victor said...

GS

"Perhaps I am just used to a more robust debating style,"

You could have fooled me.

Happy New Year

Guerilla Surgeon said...

No Victor, you've managed to fool yourself.