Thinking about Halloween

Source: Flickr
Source: Flickr

What is the big deal with Halloween? Why is it that some people – most of them Christian – get so upset by it?

I’ve been thinking about it a bit over the past few days. At church last week, someone made a comment about it from the front, and that generated a certain amount of discussion on Facebook. Halloween is one of those things which different people have very different opinions about, and I wouldn’t like to prescribe any particular opinion as “the” Christian opinion.

However, I will admit to being quite uncomfortable with Halloween, and – given that it’s a subject I’ve never blogged on before – I’d like to take a moment to share my thoughts on it. So, what’s the big deal with Halloween? Why does it make me uncomfortable?

Firstly, a personal anecdote. A couple of weeks ago, we went into a store in Clacton to buy a two-year-old a birthday present. It was a general, family-friendly store, and I was carrying Lydia (my two-year-old daughter). As we walked in, the very first thing we passed as we entered the shop was a display with some gruesome Halloween costumes. I’m sure you’ve all seen the kind of thing – masks and costumes made up to look as horrible as possible – Zombies, the undead, creepy things – all that kind of stuff. And as I was carrying Lydia past it, I did wonder whether it was really an appropriate display for a two-year-old to be looking at (fortunately she didn’t notice). I don’t think I’m a prude by any manner of means, but I do think some things are not appropriate for children and many Halloween costumes really push the limits of what is acceptable. Even if those costumes were designed for older children, you can’t prevent younger children from seeing them (e.g. older siblings, at school etc.) For the last few weeks we’ve been taking Lydia along to a toddler group at a nursery, and over half-term at that nursery they’ve been running a Halloween-themed club. Apparently every activity is Halloween themed. This is far from uncommon – in fact it seems to be the new norm. Even the youngest children are exposed to it.

Secondly, I have a problem with what Halloween actually is. Most people defend Halloween as being “just a bit of fun” – I hear this time and again when talking about Halloween. But the thing is, “just a bit of fun” is not a reason to do something. There are a lot of things which are “just a bit of fun” which might actually be harmful – such as ‘banter‘. The point is, to my mind a festival like Halloween needs to say something positive to justify its existence rather than simply carrying on because it’s not bad enough to stop doing. With a festival such as Christmas or Easter, it’s obvious what those times are supposed to be celebrating: there is, if you like, a positive message. But with Halloween – what? Scary stuff is good? Let’s all have a big laugh at witches, ogres, monsters, etc? However you want to cut it, I think Halloween simply does not say anything positive, which causes me to question its existence.

Thirdly, following on from that – doesn’t Halloween actually work against pretty much everything that we teach kids for the rest of the year? We want to teach children good values, we want to teach them about goodness and love, that good overcomes evil, to be polite to others, not to participate in things which are wrong, etc. It seems to me that Halloween, as it is today, turns all that on its head. Trick or treat, for example: when else would we tell kids it’s OK to knock on a complete stranger’s door and ask them for a treat… or else? (And yes, I know that’s not how most parents do trick or treat, but still.) Some kids go to Halloween parties made up with big scars etc – isn’t that simply disrespectful to those who bear wounds and injuries, or with physical deformities? Is it right to be teaching kids that physical deformity and scars are “scary” and should be mocked and ridiculed? Those are just a couple of examples, there are more.

Fourthly, and as a Christian I think this is the most important thing for me, I believe that evil does actually exist. And actually, I wonder whether this may be the heart of the matter. 1 Peter 5:8-9 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The Bible is clear that the Devil and evil do actually exist, not just in a philosophical sense. There are many testimonies of those who have experienced evil in a fairly personal way – Nicky Cruz’s books spring to mind (especially ‘Devil on the Run’, where he talks about his parents who were occult healers). Someone at my old church grew up in a missionary family in Africa, and had more than a few stories to tell. Christians are warned explicitly against consulting with mediums and the like (e.g. Lev. 19:31; Deut. 18:9-13). Paul says in Ephesians 6:12, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Given all of this – why would we even want to have anything to do with evil, regardless of how light-hearted it supposedly is?

Christians, by contrast, are exhorted: “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Phil. 4:8). We are to set our minds on the things of God, good things, things which are pure and help us to grow in holiness. I can’t see that Halloween helps us in that goal.

A few years ago people used to wear “WWJD” bracelets – What Would Jesus Do? Although I think it’s not always helpful to think of things in those terms (Jesus was the Son of God, after all, he could do things we couldn’t or shouldn’t do) – but I do think it might be a helpful question to ask in this situation. Would Jesus dress up as a burn victim for Halloween? Can you imagine him laughing as he painted on fake scars? You know, I just don’t think I can. That’s not to say I think Jesus would have avoided going to Halloween parties – he hung around with sinners all the time – but I don’t think he would have “celebrated” Halloween.

Finally – I appreciate that this is not an issue which Christians completely agree on (if you want a different perspective, have a read of this from the Good Book Company). And, as I hinted at in that last paragraph, I wouldn’t advise Christians to avoid Halloween parties. That’s not to say I would advise going to Halloween parties – I’d just say, use your own godly common sense and wisdom. But I just wanted to share why Halloween, as a festival, makes me uncomfortable, and why I think it’s worth at least pausing for thought before diving in.

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27 thoughts on “Thinking about Halloween

  1. Good thoughts. I totally agree and had also read the Good Book Company article. I think the reason I am more cautious about allowing my family any involvement is that I have seen the effects of witchcraft and the occult on people’s lives and believe that we should not make light of it. It gets increasingly difficult when toddler groups and schools seem to highlight it.i do like it when churches offer an alternative party i.e. light party as the children want to be able to have an alternative when their friends are having parties.

  2. I very much agree, Phill.
    I have to admit, I chose not to eat at a certain restaurant in Colchester the other day because of the horrible exhibits on show – apart from anything else, they would put me off my food! One restaurant even had ‘crematorium’ marked under a ghostly-looking figure – totally insensitive, though sadly reflective of our culture today.
    I think the best response the churches are making to halloween evangelistically is through light parties and the like. Our Messy Church next Saturday, for instance, has ‘The Light of the World’ as its theme. Krish Kandiah has also made some helpful comments about this issue (link from Anglican Mainstream website).
    Pete

    • Hi Peter, yes I think you’re right – light parties and the like are they way forward. To engage and redeem rather than to ignore!

      Thank you for commenting as ever.

      Phill

  3. Personally I dislike Halloween. Don’t get it. Bring on bonfire night I say (I know, I know, that’s kind of gruesome too if you consider the history…)

    Then again, as a Roman Catholic by birth, I’d say original sin, guilt etc did a lot more damage than Halloween has ever done, and religion in general is probably more responsible for a lot of evil in this world, than a few people dressing up, and that’s coming from someone who was seriously spooked by trick or treaters when he was 3…

    Good post Phill.

    BTW – Faith ‘ I have seen the effects of witchcraft and the occult on people’s lives’ Please share.

    • Hi Darren, thanks for commenting and I’m glad you agree.

      Obviously I disagree with you on original sin and religion. Although I can sympathise with where you are coming from, one of my friends came From a catholic background and I think he spent much of his youth feeling guilty. That’s not Christianity though, I think sadly the Catholic Church has departed from the faith and it’s causing a lot of pain.

      Phill

  4. Catholicism isn’t Christianity?

    Could have fooled me with the whole bible and believing in god/Jesus skit.

    Truth is, we are back to interpretation of the bible, and that anybody can interpret it to say or do whatever they want it to.

    Making all religion totally changeable and ultimately a tool to send whatever message the bearer of the bible/Qur’an whatever text holds wishes to convey.

    • HI Darren

      I do think Catholicism is Christianity, just Christianity which is in error. It’s interesting you talk about interpreting the Bible etc, because actually this is not quite how it happens – Catholics hold tradition as equal to the Bible, so it’s not that their interpretation is wrong but they have a very different way of going about things.

      In fact, this is exactly what happened at the Reformation: reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin etc. rejected the corruption of the Catholic church as it had become, rejected the authority of tradition, and argued explicitly that they were not introducing new teaching into the church but returning the church to its original apostolic teaching – the teaching of the apostles and of Christ. I think they were right.

      God bless,

      Phill

  5. So, you don’t like what one group says about the bible so you change it to suit what you think it says.

    Yes, I know. Lol.

    • If God didn’t exist, what you say would be true. But as I think God does exist, and helps people who honestly want the truth to find it, I think what you say is not applicable 🙂

      God bless,

      Phill

  6. If god does exists or not does not have a bearing on the fact that no one has a clue what the bible is actually referring to.

    The sheer variety of christian denominations (to start with) shows that.

    You are trying to please a being of which there is no proof, and of which if it does exist you don’t know what it wants.

    Surely you ask yourself, why, is it not better to live your life honestly to yourself and others, helping them in the way you want to, without the shadow of someone else’s (not god but maybe your theology teacher, priest, religions) imposed beliefs and morals guiding you?

    We’ve been here before, it all comes down to ignorant dumb blind unquestioning faith. Lol.

    • Darren,

      Language does have a meaning – it’s why I can understand your comment and reply to you. Words can’t just mean anything they like.

      The beliefs of most Christian denominations have been remarkably consistent, actually, on the essential matters. Sure, there are lots of disagreements over small things, but we believe in the same gospel.

      “Surely you ask yourself, why, is it not better to live your life honestly to yourself and others, helping them in the way you want to, without the shadow of someone else’s (not god but maybe your theology teacher, priest, religions) imposed beliefs and morals guiding you?”

      For one, I am aware of my own heart and the selfishness and sin inside it. I am not a good person. If left to my own devices, I’d be a much more selfish person. But God helps me overcome that and love others.

      For two, as Dostoevsky put it, if God is dead, everything is permissible. That is the stone cold truth. You personally might think there are better and worse ways of behaving, but in reality without God the only thing which makes something right or wrong is consensus. Our society happens to be based on many years of Christian morality, but Christian morality is not obvious or inevitable. It has nothing to commend it over, say, Islamic morality. You might find it distasteful, but there is nothing wrong about (say) subjugating women other than you or a society deciding it to be wrong. If a society decides it’s perfectly OK, who are you to judge?

      Have a read of this post – it’s about the video testimony of a former sociopath called David Wood (video here).

      God bless,

      Phill

  7. Lol small differences like westboro baptists to Anglican small?

    Who is to say westboro hasn’t interpreted the bible exactly right?

    Without ‘god’ or the original writers of the text there is no way of knowing the real meaning.

    ‘For one, I am aware of my own heart and the selfishness and sin inside it. I am not a good person. If left to my own devices, I’d be a much more selfish person. But God helps me overcome that and love others.’

    Maybe you are just a sucky person then? (I don’t think that btw) I’m a good guy, I give to charity I help people out, and recently one of my catholic friends said I couldn’t possibly be atheist as I was the most moral person she knew. Haha.

    Lack of god does not mean you can do whatever the hell you like. But that’s another matter we have talked about before and I really don’t want to go down that road… again…

    ‘right or wrong is consensus.’

    Like atheists being burned at the steak… oh yea like they used to be. lol. Thanks religion. Thankfully we have Minority Rights in the UK.

    The truth is you have your blind dumb unquestioning faith, and that’s fine (sort of), just don’t expect anybody who isn’t indoctrinated to take any of it seriously.

    • Actually the problem with the Westboro baptists is not that they’ve interpreted the Bible wrongly… it’s more like they’re just insane. They’re a very bizarre family. Hardly mainstream, though.

      I disagree that it’s impossible to know the real meaning without the original writers of the text – we don’t think Jane Austen, or Shakespeare, or Chaucer, or Homer, or Plato etc. is impossible to understand simply because they’re not around any more. And obviously I disagree with you that God exists, so in a sense the original author is still around anyway 😉

      I think most people think they’re a good person. Although I think most people usually set the bar pretty low (honestly, if I had a pound for every time someone’s said to me that they’ve never murdered anyone, as if that makes you a good person). But can you say that you love your neighbour with all your heart? Because I certainly can’t. I was recently preaching on the sermon on the mount, Jesus said:

      “‘You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, “Raca,” is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

      Jesus said that actually even being angry with another person is breaking the commandment against murder.

      I agree that we’ve talked a lot about morality. “Lack of god does not mean you can do whatever the hell you like” – that’s not what I said. You personally believe it’s wrong to do whatever the hell you like. That’s fine for you. But if someone disagrees with you, you don’t have a leg to stand on.

      “The truth is you have your blind dumb unquestioning faith”

      Why do you resort to insults? Is it because you’ve run out of arguments?

      God bless Darren,

      Phill

  8. Lol insults?

    You have no proof of god. Zero.

    So your faith is blind dumb and unquestioning.

    It’s just a fact.

    ‘in a sense the original author is still around anyway ;)’

    – Can you talk to it and it tells you what it meant? No. Ok then he’s no it is not around.

    ‘You personally believe it’s wrong to do whatever the hell you like. That’s fine for you. But if someone disagrees with you, you don’t have a leg to stand on.’

    – Wow oversimplifying massively, I have a moral code (personal) and abide by laws (society). This is exactly the same as you, and the same as the church that if someone disagrees they can go and form their own church, which is why there are so many different christian denominations, including the likes of the insane westboro. Which, who is to say they got it wrong? Maybe that’s what jesus wanted?

    Point is you really don’t know.

    ‘I disagree that it’s impossible to know the real meaning without the original writers of the text – we don’t think Jane Austen, or Shakespeare, or Chaucer, or Homer, or Plato etc’

    – People debate all of those authors/philosophers etc, and most will agree the core of the meaning, but no one actually know what they mean for absolute certainty, they only have their interpretation.

    In the case of Jane Austin, etc the original language and original versions is still in use. Making the meaning clearer.

    Also none of those texts are used to control people.

    • “So your faith is blind dumb and unquestioning.”

      I disagree with all three, and in particular I think calling me/my faith “dumb” is insulting. Just yesterday you said that you were a “good guy”. Do you think going onto other people’s blogs and leaving comments insulting them is what good guys do? I’m not asking for anything other than basic civility and courtesy.

      “I have a moral code (personal) and abide by laws (society).”

      You’ve dodged the question about Islam’s subjugation of women, or ISIS, or sociopaths (for example). They have a different code. The fact that you have a personal code, or society has a code, means nothing. You have no claim over anyone else to say that your morality, or society’s morality, is any better. There is no better. If there is no God, there is only opinion.

      The church, by and large, has believed in fundamentally the same gospel over the years – the gospel of salvation for those who turn to Christ in repentance and faith. This is the gospel that has prospered and flourished over two millenia. The gospel of the Westboro church, whatever it is, has not flourished. I think that says it all really.

      You’d have to ask a classicist what they thought of meaning in relation to ancient texts. I bet they’d take a more optimistic view than you. I studied ancient Greek at college and I read some of the early church writings (written around 200-300AD). They’re perfectly understandable, some scholars devote their lives to this kind of stuff. The Bible, and in particular the New Testament and gospels, is mostly written in understandable language. I just don’t think you have a case here, and I think there are very few scholars who would agree with you.

  9. Sorry Phil, but dumb is factual – as any logical thought would tell you that there is as much evidence of a god as there is of an elf.

    I’m sure you think this makes me a bad guy using the word dumb. I think we have differing views on what makes a person good or bad.

    I would say chastising people due to their sexuality, encouraging STD’s to spread like wildfire in the poorest parts of the world and protecting pedophile priests while sitting on an enormous golden throne pretty scummy. (and that’s just for starters)

    All of which has been shielded using the bible… I’d say dumb is polite.

    There is only personal and societal morals.
    Show me where god has influenced morals, and I’ll show you a group of men or women who think they are speaking on behalf of a god. But actually are being influenced by someone elses morals from the past (bible for example) and the speakers interpretation. (here we are again)

    So your argument is that your church is bigger than theirs so you are right? So when Jesus was alive (if he even existed, lets not go there) Jews were the right religion as they were in the majority.

    Scientology is growing, does that mean it is the correct religion?

    Yes ancient Greek texts that had no advantage in being changed to suit the speaker many times over the years, and that have not got cults attached to them who change the meaning to suit their purpose.

    • Hi Darren,

      “Any logical thought” etc – more insulting language. You’re basically calling me an idiot, which kind of shuts down debate, doesn’t it? Please understand, I don’t care if you think I’m an idiot. I just ask that if you come on here and want to discuss things with me (and no-one is forcing you to read my blog or comment here), we discuss it like grown-ups, politely. As much as MPs in parliament may disagree, you generally don’t hear them calling each other dumb etc. There’s no need for it.

      Look, please understand I’m not trying to say don’t comment, I do appreciate your comments and want you to keep commenting. But please, can we be focussed on the actual arguments rather than calling it stupid etc?

      “I would say chastising people due to their sexuality, encouraging STD’s to spread like wildfire in the poorest parts of the world and protecting pedophile priests while sitting on an enormous golden throne pretty scummy. (and that’s just for starters)”

      So in your personal morality, you think those things are “pretty scummy”. But in other people’s morality they may be perfectly fine. So, we’re all good, right? You’ve told me your opinion, but unless you have something bigger to appeal to than your own personal thoughts on the matter we can go no further..

      “Show me where god has influenced morals” – you mean like most of British society, like most of the morals that you hold? Just to put it in some kind of perspective.

      For many years, people in this country believed that slavery was OK. Then a guy called William Wilberforce, and others (mostly Christians), came along and said no, it’s not OK. So things changed and we now believe it’s wrong. But if there is nothing beyond personal/societal morality, then actually nothing significant happened – if God doesn’t exist, then asking whether slavery is right or wrong is a bit like asking whether a parrot is right or wrong. It’s a nonsense question. Different people believed different things at different times in history, great. None of them were right or wrong, they just … were.

      I’m not saying that the biggest = right when it comes to churches/religions. But if you look back at the course of the last 2000 years, the churches that have survived have been the orthodox churches which preach the gospel as it has always been understood. Organisations grow – temporarily – for all sorts of reasons. But if you take the long view I think God has kept his church.

      We’ve had the discussion about ancient Greek texts before, so I simply refer you here again 🙂

      God bless Darren,

      Phill

  10. I’m certainly not calling you an idiot, you are far from that and I would not personally attack you.

    I would however question strongly your belief. I’m doing so by calling your belief dumb blind unquestioning, any logical thought would tell you there is no proof of god, and nothing to make you believe god. And you must know better than I that religion is all based around faith.

    You have no evidence, no proof to back you up, yet you expect people to heed you and your words. If someone said you need to go live in their basement as space aliens are invading, you’d want proof right. Or would you blindly follow to make sure you are safe?

    Would you like me to stop commenting?

    ‘So in your personal morality, you think those things are “pretty scummy”. But in other people’s morality they may be perfectly fine. So, we’re all good, right? You’ve told me your opinion, but unless you have something bigger to appeal to than your own personal thoughts on the matter we can go no further..’

    Lol no. Again personal and society morals dictate what we think is acceptable. I’m sure the 9/11 bombers thought killing was acceptable, or the crusades killing many people was acceptable. All in the name of god. Yet, you wouldn’t say those are acceptable.

    Why would you think they aren’t acceptable? God?

    No, many factors, morals are always personal they are influenced by civilization, laws, philosophers, religion, parents, experience and many other aspects that affect our lives.

    You do not need a god to make you a moral person, what is a moral person? Who decides that? The bible is unclear that much is obvious otherwise we would all be swimming in the same direction.

    For me something is wrong, for you it is right. And personally your morals are perverted by the bible stopping you from using your own humanity (as in the 9/11 bombers and the examples below (I know extremes using to make a point)

    “Show me where god has influenced morals” – you mean like most of British society, like most of the morals that you hold? Just to put it in some kind of perspective.’

    – That’s religion and man. Not god. Unless, has god come down as spoken to everybody and handed out leaflets on how to live correctly?

    No?

    Then its man.

    I’m not debating the fact that religion has done many wonderful things, it has also done many terrible things. But you cannot with one hand praise religion and with the other ignore the bad parts like the westboro church etc.

    Slavery is clearly wrong, it causes suffering and hurt to people.

    William who did a great thing probably went against the bible. Many many slave owners were christian, and used the bible to justify slavery. Religion removed the humanity from the people and justified horrendous crimes.

    Here are just a few (there are many more dotted all over the bible) of the passages that were used to justify slavery:

    Firstly, good ol, widely ignored unless you need it, leviticus. The following passage shows that slaves are clearly property to be bought and sold like livestock.:

    However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way. (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)

    Next, how can anyone think it is moral to sell your own daughter as a sex slave, apparently its ok?

    When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl’s owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment. (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)

    And finally, in the following parable, Jesus clearly approves of beating slaves even if they didn’t know they were doing anything wrong.

    The servant will be severely punished, for though he knew his duty, he refused to do it. “But people who are not aware that they are doing wrong will be punished only lightly. Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given.” (Luke 12:47-48 NLT)

    I think William was being a bit anti Christian going off these few bits… But hey, thats the way I’ve interpreted it… Lol.

    I just used the bible to convey my point just as many many people have done so before. Yup. Showing once again, that the bible can be used to convey any message you wish.

    • Hi Darren,

      I’m glad to hear that you don’t think I’m an idiot 🙂 And, I should add, it’s the same with me for you. I don’t want you to stop commenting. I appreciate that you disagree with my views, but please – is it possible to focus on the arguments rather than calling them names?

      You say that all religion is based on faith. I’d go further and say that every single worldview is based on faith. You can’t avoid it, everyone has faith in something. I think you have faith in reason, for example, which I talked about before.

      Darren, I’m confused by your moral stance. I think you contradict yourself. You say on the one hand “personal and society morals dictate what we think is acceptable”, and on the other hand “Slavery is clearly wrong, it causes suffering and hurt to people”. Isn’t that a massive contradiction? Many people, before slavery was banned, thought it was OK – it was absolutely legal, society had no problem with it. Yet you seem to think our current opinion on slavery is better than theirs. What possible reason, as an atheist, can you give to justify that?

      Those 9/11 suicide bombers – they were doing what they thought was right. In fact you could probably find many in the Islamic world (and perhaps elsewhere) still think what they did was right. So what exactly is the problem? Why are they wrong and you right?

      What I’m trying to say is that you claim to believe in some kind of moral relativism, but your words betray that you believe in no such thing. I think you believe that there is an actual right and wrong, and that can only be true if there is a God who makes moral demands on all of us.

      On slavery – not going to get drawn into this discussion. Don’t believe the popular lie that everyone believed that slavery was OK until someone came along and decided it wasn’t – it simply isn’t true. There are some good resources you can find by Google if you’re interested, see for example here.

      God bless,

      Phill

  11. Hey Phillipen,

    is it possible to focus on the arguments rather than calling them names?

    – I’ll work on it. haha, although I make no promises.

    ‘You say that all religion is based on faith. I’d go further and say that every single worldview is based on faith. You can’t avoid it, everyone has faith in something. I think you have faith in reason, for example, which I talked about before.’

    – I agree with you. Although faith in the tangible is logical.

    ‘Darren, I’m confused by your moral stance. I think you contradict yourself. You say on the one hand “personal and society morals dictate what we think is acceptable”, and on the other hand “Slavery is clearly wrong, it causes suffering and hurt to people”. Isn’t that a massive contradiction? ‘

    – How so? My personal morals tell me that to hurt someone and chastise them for personal gain is wrong, and societies morals agree.

    ‘Many people, before slavery was banned, thought it was OK – it was absolutely legal, society had no problem with it. Yet you seem to think our current opinion on slavery is better than theirs. What possible reason, as an atheist, can you give to justify that?’

    There is nothing to ‘justify’ there is the points, I think slavery is wrong because of A, they think it is right because of B. If it is a serious issue like slavery then society then takes part in the discussions, broaden points A and B and like in this case make it illegal.

    Morals are fluid that much is clear, and they change from person to person, society to society, passing of time, knowledge, etc. If they were not, everything would be black and white. It certainly is not.

    I think the 9/11 bombers were wrong because of my, and the society I live in set of morals and what I and we believe to be right and wrong.

    Difference between me, and the bomber, is that I would use my brain to assess if bombing and killing innocent people is right or not. And the bomber was brainwashed by religion (men). And that is the key difference between a religious man, and non.

    ‘you believe that there is an actual right and wrong,’ – Oh absolutely I do, they are my morals, but I am willing to change them in the face of evidence or arguments.

    I am willing to admit that I may be wrong and change my stance on a subject. Is your god ever wrong? If not then your morals are unchangeable? I think not.

    Don’t believe the popular lie that everyone believed that slavery was OK until someone came along and decided it wasn’t – it simply isn’t true.

    I don’t believe that, what I do believe is what I showed you, that slavery can be justified using the bible. The bible can also be used to show slavery as wrong.

    Like I showed you.

    Yup, you can use the bible to spread any message you want, and you can use it to change your morals, and you can do so without thinking.

    Just like the 9/11 bombers coerced into thinking they were doing the moral thing, using their religious text, so can the bible be used.

    Your moral ship is fixed to a floating unattached dock.

    • Hi Darren, (where did “Phillipen” come from? Over-zealous autocorrect? Made me smile anyway)

      “Morals are fluid that much is clear, and they change from person to person, society to society, passing of time, knowledge, etc. If they were not, everything would be black and white. It certainly is not.”

      What you’re saying is that morality is completely relative, right? There is no ultimate right or wrong. Slavery is neither moral or immoral, it’s neutral. Some societies consider it immoral, some consider it moral. It’s pointless to talk about one society being right and another wrong, they’re just different.

      This is what I don’t get about you. In one breath you talk as if there is no right and wrong, we all just reason differently. In another you seem to believe that some people’s morality is genuinely better or worse than others. I reckon you believe that the 9/11 attackers were not doing something wrong according to your own personal belief, or even according to society’s belief. I think you believe they were wrong in an objective sense. I do too. The difference between us is that you have no reason to think your own personal morality, or our society’s morality, should be applied to anyone else. We’ve just evolved a different one, and it’s a shame when they come into conflict, but there you go.

      I, on the other hand, believe that there is one God who calls us all equally to love him and love others. Every person alive is held accountable to the same moral standard. I think this makes much more sense of the world, and it explains why when something like 9/11 happens, or even when someone prangs my car and drives off without leaving a note, that I think something *wrong* has happened and not just something which goes against my personal morality.

      You seem to think that no violence has ever been committed in the name of secularism, the only people who cause violence are religious extremists. This is absolutely false. Karen Armstrong’s article on the Guardian (yes, the Guardian. Who’d have thought it) is good: The myth of religious violence. I also found a website listing the death toll of atheist regimes of the 20th Century. I think it’s logical that if you don’t believe human life has any intrinsic value (and why would you, if you’re an atheist, we’re all just space dust in the end) – then killing a few (million) people is of no consequence in order to create a utopian society. Sadly no utopia has emerged as yet, but I’m sure that won’t stop people trying.

      And that is the real clincher: you might think your morality is good in your own eyes, but really there’s nothing ‘good’ about it. You might value human life and want to minimise pain etc, but if other people don’t value the same things as you – there’s no comeback. There’s no right answer. There just is. And that, my friend, for me, would be a deeply, deeply problematic and disturbing place to be.

      God bless,

      Phill

  12. Hi sorry for the delay in replying been a bit busy, Philipen is what I call my father in law. Comes naturally. 🙂

    ‘What you’re saying is that morality is completely relative, right? There is no ultimate right or wrong. Slavery is neither moral or immoral, it’s neutral. Some societies consider it immoral, some consider it moral. It’s pointless to talk about one society being right and another wrong, they’re just different.’

    – Yes morality is completely relative. The point you are missing is that I have my morals, and society has its morals. And from those morals you decide whether something is right or not. You also discuss different ideas of what constitutes your morals or not, morals are fluid. And there are different levels of fluidity in them.

    And that applies to the church any church as much as it does to humanity in general.

    To fix those morals (which frankly the church does fix, until it needs to change it for whatever reason… ) is unnatural and unhealthy. It stops you questioning. It causes people to bomb Paris in the name of Allah, because by not questioning your morals, you again, become blind dumb and unquestioning.

    ‘This is what I don’t get about you. In one breath you talk as if there is no right and wrong’

    – There absolutely is! Personal and Societal morals. But like I say above it is fluid.

    ‘ I reckon you believe that the 9/11 attackers were not doing something wrong according to your own personal belief, or even according to society’s belief.’

    – Wrong, in my opinion they were totally and utterly wrong, as well as in the majority of society in agreement with me.

    Obviously some people think they were right. That is their opinion and morals which I and society disagree with.

    To suggest that morals are somehow fixed is simple minded and unrealistic.

    ‘Every person alive is held accountable to the same moral standard. I think this makes much more sense of the world, and it explains why when something like 9/11 happens, or even when someone prangs my car and drives off without leaving a note, that I think something *wrong* has happened and not just something which goes against my personal morality.’

    – Sorry no, as above again.

    ‘You seem to think that no violence has ever been committed in the name of secularism, the only people who cause violence are religious extremists’

    – I don’t.

    ‘ death toll of atheist regimes of the 20th Century’

    – Like Hitler? We’ve been through that one.

    And that is the real clincher: you might think your morality is good in your own eyes, but really there’s nothing ‘good’ about it. You might value human life and want to minimise pain etc, but if other people don’t value the same things as you – there’s no comeback. There’s no right answer. There just is. And that, my friend, for me, would be a deeply, deeply problematic and disturbing place to be.

    – For me, I live my life to what I feel is right, I am influenced by many factors, but ultimately I decide if I am moral or not.

    The moment I put down my thinking hat, and simply accept what is spoon fed to me, is the moment I loose my morals, and take on someone else s.

    I would lose part of my humanity. Which is exactly what has happened this weekend in Paris.

    • Hi Darren,

      I simply don’t understand how you can say “morality is completely relative” and “I decide if I am moral or not” on the one hand, but on the other you say “There absolutely is [morality]! Personal and Societal morals. But like I say above it is fluid.”

      So all morality is relative, but it’s fluid… so there are no morals, and yet there are morals, but there are relative morals, and every society decides for itself, but yet some societies are more moral than others. So that’s all clear then???!!

      And you still haven’t explained why a different society which values certain things is actually wrong. Yes, our society disagrees. So what? There’s no right answer. All we can say is “I disagree!” – and that’s the end of the matter. You have your opinion, our society has its opinion, they have theirs. No-one’s right. Some societies bomb buildings, some don’t… big woop, we’re all space dust anyway.

      Anyway, I feel like it’s time to draw stumps on this discussion, not least because I think we’ve gone round and round without getting anywhere.

      Take care, God bless,

      Phill

  13. Morals.

    My personal Morals.

    My Societies/Organisations/Religious Morals.

    Other Peoples individual Morals

    Other Societies/Organisations/Religious Morals

    All of which can change, stay the same etc

    Religious morals which do change (proof – varying nominations of Christianity. Don’t like it create new off shoot, with your own set of rules and morals)

    Each of those sets of morals can change, as they are constantly changing. But they do exist and as such I can judge whether or not you are moral according to my morals, societies morals, other peoples morals etc etc.

    You assume that because they can change that they are not valid. They are valid. To pretend that morals are static is simply untrue and as I said in my opinion damaging.

    ‘And you still haven’t explained why a different society which values certain things is actually wrong. Yes, our society disagrees. So what? There’s no right answer. All we can say is “I disagree!” – and that’s the end of the matter. You have your opinion, our society has its opinion, they have theirs. No-one’s right. Some societies bomb buildings, some don’t… big woop, we’re all space dust anyway.’

    – There is a right answer, I think murder is wrong, so to me that is the right answer, You can disagree and for you that is the right answer.

    – And hopefully your society agrees with you, if not then try to change the society to agree with you, or change society.

    – Like gay marriage – an example of changing society.

    – Like people fleeing Tibet (for example), because they disagree with that society. e.g. Dali lama

    – Why on earth would you think I wouldn’t care if people died? Because I’m atheist?

    So yes morals are important, and there is a right and wrong. But they are your rights and wrongs, and your morals. Influenced by religion, parents, people whatever.

    And that is ultimately what you have.

    Your own personal morality.

    I think we have gotten somewhere with this discussion. I’m amazed you would think otherwise.

    If nothing else its cleared my ideas. So thank you for that. 🙂

    • Hi Darren

      Thanks for clarifying. It seems to me that believing there is a world in which e.g. murder is conceivably the right and moral answer (even if it not in our culture) is not the kind of world I want to live in. That is basically the logical conclusion from what you are saying.

      I’m glad this discussion has helped to clear your ideas, although I feel like we’ve basically had this same discussion before 🙂

      God bless,

      Phill

  14. – Murder is never the right moral answer, personally.

    – I know that some societies find murder acceptable. I like you do not. I think it is morally abhorrent. Going off my personal and societal morals.

    – I don’t want to live in that world either, but it exists, and we try to stop it existing. (rather unsuccessfully – attacking isis, taliban etc etc)

    – You believing in god does not make those people stop believing murder is right, and neither does my lack of belief.

    – Neither does belief in god make you moral. Pedo priests etc.

    I don’t think we are going over the same ground. It amazes me that you think just because of my lack of belief I would be okay with murder. Bizarre.

    • “I don’t think we are going over the same ground. It amazes me that you think just because of my lack of belief I would be okay with murder. Bizarre.”

      Darren, I think this is a neat illustration of why I think we’re going over the same ground. You’re reading what I say but not understanding me. I didn’t think you’d be OK with murder. I just think the reason you’re not OK with murder is not because you’re an atheist but because there is a God who made you with a conscience 🙂 Anyway we’ve more or less continued this discussion in the other thread now so I’m going to close this one off.

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