Three years ago, I lamented the use of the word “bigot” especially in the context of same-sex marriage. In the last week or so, I’ve read a couple of other things which have really said what I wanted to say much better.
Firstly, Brendan O’Neill writes about “The New Bigots” as he considers the treatment of Germaine Greer after making her comments about transgender women. O’Neill is someone who I would probably disagree with fundamentally on a number of issues, but he is always well worth reading and this is no exception: I think it’s very insightful. Who are the real bigots – people who hold opinions like Germaine Greer, or those who try to silence those opinions?
Secondly, the webcomic Adam4d posted up a cartoon about intolerance, which makes a very similar point. Having a different opinion is not intolerance.
As I was reading these two pieces, it made me reflect on the nature of our society today: why is it that those with dissenting opinions – particularly on matters such as marriage – are often accused of being ‘bigoted’?
Let’s just take a detour into a little thought experiment for a second. Imagine a racist, let’s call him Racist Tim (I don’t know why I chose the name Tim, apologies to all the Tims out there.) Racist Tim is a member of a certain far-right political party and often expresses his support for them in conversations with his friends. Most of his conversation is focussed on the evils of immigration and the dangers of Islam.
Now, Racist Tim has views which are not acceptable in society at the moment (racism). What do you think would help him to change his views? (1) his friends all telling him that he’s stupid; (2) everyone on Facebook and social media telling him that racism is stupid; (3) him having a change of heart and realising that racism is wrong?
Now I appreciate that those three options are not mutually exclusive, but the one which really matters – the one which will really make a difference – is (3), isn’t it? At the end of the day, however much Racist Tim’s friends or the internet tells him that his views are stupid and wrong, it isn’t going to make much of a difference unless he can realise for himself that he’s wrong. Now, it is a possibility that (1) and (2) will help towards (3) – but what I think is more likely to happen is that the more Racist Tim gets abused for his racist views, the more strongly he will hold them. I’d say what is much more effective in that situation is to engage with kindness and compassion and to show Racist Tim why his views are wrong and help him to see that for himself: he won’t realise if he’s just abused, he might just realise if people engage him with gentleness.
Why do I say all of this, and what relevance does it have to intolerance? The point is, at the moment our society basically engages in (1) and (2): telling people who hold unacceptable opinions that they are wrong, that they are ‘bigots’, that they need to change their minds. But the problem is, I don’t think this will actually change anyone’s mind.
But from a Christian perspective, I also believe there is something even more fundamental going on: the issue of the human heart. As someone once said, “The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.” Jesus said in Mark 7:20-23,
What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.
In context, the disciples (and the Pharisees) thought that ceremonial uncleanness – what made them ‘unclean’ and separated from God – came from outside. But Jesus says, no – uncleanness comes from within. We have a heart problem, one which is inside, rather than one which is merely external.
We human beings, by nature, love to make all our problems external. We believe that if we just follow a set of rules, we’ll be OK. We love to believe that we can set a list of rules for ourselves, and all we need to do is simply keep them. Then, once we’ve followed our list of rules, will we be good and righteous. “Don’t be racist: tick. Don’t be homophobic: tick. Give to charity from time to time: tick.” If you get ticks in enough boxes, you’re a good person. This is known as legalism – that the route to being a good and righteous person is by keeping the law.
From this perspective, it’s not surprising that our society is intolerant, is it? Our society is profoundly legalistic. If you ‘break the law’ (i.e. express the wrong / unacceptable opinion), you’re not a good person. Instead, you need to say the right words, spout the right ideas, keep in line with societal orthodoxy… or at least appear to do these things. Because, truth be told, the fruit of legalism is hypocrisy: people who appear to be keeping the law on the outside, but internally are just the same. Let’s go back to our example of Racist Tim. Let’s suppose that he recognised that expressing his racist opinions drew him lots of abuse, so he stopped. Let’s say that he learned to say the right words so that he could sound enlightened and most definitely not racist. Do you think his heart would have changed too? Or would he just simply be a hypocrite, saying ‘inclusive’ things on the outside while quietly feeding his racism on the inside? He could spend the rest of his life saying the ‘right’ things (or at least, avoiding saying the ‘wrong’ things) while inside still believing his racist thoughts without anyone knowing.
And this is where the Christian message speaks into our society: all of us have a heart problem. All of us have things inside of us we know are wrong which can’t be fixed by giving ourselves a set of rules. But God promises to give us new hearts. He promises to change us from the inside out. This is what God said through the prophet Ezekiel:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
Christianity, unlike every other major religion, doesn’t say “do this”: it points to the Saviour, Jesus Christ, and says “done”. It doesn’t say, “if you try really, really hard – you’ll be OK.” It says, “You can’t do it on your own. Trust in Jesus, who has done it for you – and God will renew you and give you a new heart that wants to obey Him.”
At the end of the day, I don’t think Christians should be surprised at our society’s current obsession with the word ‘bigotry’: our society is simply doing what human beings do best – legalism. But the only real solution to intolerance is not more laws, is not more accusations of bigotry, but a new heart. That’s the only thing which will make any difference in the end.
33 thoughts on “Bigotry and legalism in our culture5 min read”
I think you are right on this, Phill. I disagree with you on gay marriage, but I do think that the only way people are going to have a change of heart on issues is by having people trying to understand them, why they are where they are, what made them adopt those opinions. At the same time, those around them shouldn’t feed those opinions by agreeing with them or not challenging them, but insults are counter-productive as I have found out for myself, and I believe that the hater is harming him/herself more than the person at whom the hate is aimed. It is easy to go with the crowd on social media and say things about others that will meet approval, but to go against the grain and say that our enemies (real or otherwise) should not be subject to that sort of online bullying takes courage. It just shuts down a proper discussion and becomes a substitute for real discussion.
Hi Peter, thanks for your comment.
I very much agree with you on disagreement – I think true tolerance is actually talking to those we disagree with rather than shutting down debate before it’s even started!
Talking about people who do not agree… 😀
I think your Tim point was over simplified but I agree with the basis that we should talk rather than bombard. But perhaps if you are being bombarded then maybe you need to look at your point? hint hint. 😀
And I think your issue of the word bigot is more an English language issue rather than an actual issue.
Yes the word bigot is being used technically incorrectly.
To me you just seem annoyed that most people do not agree with you any more.
It used to be that people who would say they didn’t believe in god were called a bigot. Well. Shoes on the other foot now.
When people see something is clearly incorrect, they call it out using a technically incorrect term.
I agree with them.
Now, this is my favorite bit:
‘Our society is profoundly legalistic. If you ‘break the law’ (i.e. express the wrong / unacceptable opinion), you’re not a good person. Instead, you need to say the right words, spout the right ideas, keep in line with societal orthodoxy…’
– Yea, welcome to religion.
I appreciate that words do change their meaning, but I think when people use the word “bigot” they intend the dictionary meaning – but that’s demonstrably false. As I think the Adam4d cartoon shows. We’re all “bigots” to someone – using the word just shuts down debate and entrenches people in their positions rather than helping. You may think someone is a bigot, but calling them that is most likely not going to change their opinion. If you find out why they believe what they believe, and engage them on that, then you’re much more likely to change their opinion and learn something in the process. That is tolerance.
Actually I agree with you on the religion thing. And that was my entire point. Our society is profoundly “religious” – legalistic. Fortunately Christianity isn’t – it’s the solution to legalism. Read on from the bit you quoted.
Just 1 point on this:
‘Fortunately Christianity isn’t ‘ – Oh it most definitely is. It is fixed, unnaturally (well been through this one in the other post)
Our society can change with the will of the people. The laws are there because people have voted for them, wanted them etc…
Not sure what you mean by “fixed unnaturally”. The law God has given us is to love him and to love our neighbour as ourselves. Not sure what’s so fixed and unnatural about that.
Change isn’t always a good thing – if something can change for the better it can also change for the worse. (And actually, for an atheist the idea of society changing for ‘better’ and ‘worse’ are meaningless concepts anyway. There is just change).
Well wrote a big reply, then the page closed hey maybe there is a god? Lol. No, I don’t think so. hehe 😀
Lol, how arrogant and totally incorrect –
‘And actually, for an atheist the idea of society changing for ‘better’ and ‘worse’ are meaningless concepts anyway. There is just change’
Why must I believe in a super space being to be a moral person and know what is right or wrong? The answer is I don’t need to believe.
As I said in the previous post on your previous posting I have my morals, the society has theirs etc, which tells us what is right and what is wrong. These may change over time, with new information etc as they have always done so.
If your morals were the only correct morals given to you by god then why do all Christians not believe the same? Oh? Could it be you are wrong?
Your religious morals are no different apart from the fact you believe they come from a godly place. Even though they have changed many times over the ages, such as branching off of different churches, and changes in doctrine/dogma. Does this mean god changes his mind?
The church used to dictate morals, through killing and fear, crusades and priests (you will go to hell etc) for starters.
Now, the church has lost its power in the west, meaning it can no longer dictate morals to the masses. Where it once lead, it now must follow hence the now friendly face of religion.
Unlike society and people who can change their mind about say SSM, (or whatever) due to the evidence. The church has a tough choice, due to the fact that if they change their minds is god incorrect, or did they misinterpret god? At which point, what else have they misinterpreted?
Creating an unnatural fixed moral.
Eventually the church does come around to societies new morals because otherwise they will lose followers.
Just like they did on the loan argument and the slavery argument.
Now yes change can be good and bad, absolutely. I would argue no change is worst. I have ‘faith’ in people trying to do the right thing, and that the changes made to society would be to benefit society.
If we do not question why we believe things, then we lose part of our humanity.
When we do not question, the Paris attacks, 9/11, Madrid etc happen in the most extreme cases.
Belief in religion tarnishes your morals, and takes away part of what makes you human.
As always the problem with internet discussions like this is that it doesn’t take long to get to the point where you’d need to write a book to respond. I’d need to take a book or three or respond to everything that you’ve written. If I may I’ll just focus on your main point which I think again and again you miss in our discussions.
“Why must I believe in a super space being to be a moral person and know what is right or wrong? The answer is I don’t need to believe.”
No. The answer is *you* and *society* may have morals. But how do you judge yourself to be a moral person? How do you judge a society to be moral? The point is, without a God, there are only opinions. There is no way, and I repeat, NO WAY – to judge between competing morals. Isis think it’s OK to respond to what they perceive as Western injustice by murder. Yes, we disagree with them, think it’s abhorrent, etc. But ultimately they are not “wrong”. If there is no God, nothing transcendent outside of ourselves, then there is no standard by which they can be judged.
I think you and I believe that there are things which are *really* wrong, not just wrong because I / society believes in it, but because we both believe there is an actual right and wrong which is beyond mere opinion or whim of a society. I think Isis are not just abhorrent according to my personal opinion but because I objectively think they are wrong and they ought to be different.
The difference between us is that I can believe that consistently because I think there is one God and lawgiver. I think you are being inconsistent in your beliefs, as we discussed on the other thread. Atheism gives you no reason to think that your morality, or society’s, is any better than any other – and yet I think you do believe that your morality is better than Isis (for example).
I don’t think you’ve really grasped the consequences of your argument – that morality is relative, fluid, etc. If that is really true, then you have nothing to say to another society who might disagree with you. Your morality, or our society’s, has no purchase on anyone else, why should it?
‘No. The answer is *you* and *society* may have morals. But how do you judge yourself to be a moral person? How do you judge a society to be moral? ‘
– How do you? As a christian your faith has changed many times. Slavery, loans etc. Are you sure you have it right now?
I’ve made this point already.
‘There is no way, and I repeat, NO WAY – to judge between competing morals.’
– Absolute nonsense. Killing is bad as it causes suffering and personally I dont want to be killed or have my family murdered – it cause suffering etc so its bad.
– Not killing is bad because a book told me so… that’s madness. And again leads to people like the Paris attackers. What if the book said it was good?
‘Yes, we disagree with them, think it’s abhorrent, etc. But ultimately they are not “wrong”. If there is no God, nothing transcendent outside of ourselves, then there is no standard by which they can be judged. ‘
– I personally judge them as wrong, society judges them as wrong because of our morals that are shaped (again) by our lives, education, society laws etc etc etc
This is exactly the same as you judging them as wrong using your morals that are shaped by your religion.
Frankly using the bible you can believe slavery is right or wrong. You choose. I’m telling you its wrong. Now which is the more moral force there?
Me. Which will always get my vote. haha, No I would say the argument you are making that there is no moral rule without god, is actually the opposite is true, with god there is no moral rule, as the bible is so contradictory.
With god you answer to an invisible force. You can shape god to say or do whatever you like specially if you are in a position of power.
With no god you answer to the people. They can actually voice their opinions which you can question and change.
‘The difference between us is that I can believe that consistently because I think there is one God and lawgiver. I think you are being inconsistent in your beliefs, as we discussed on the other thread. Atheism gives you no reason to think that your morality, or society’s, is any better than any other – and yet I think you do believe that your morality is better than Isis (for example).’
– Again nonsense.
Your god/bible can be used to convey whatever message the giver is conveying. – e.g. Slavery.
Atheism doesn’t give me anything as it is a lack of belief. And again my morals influenced by many sources, shape my morals, and societies morals.
I have a definite right and wrong based on those sources. Just as you have with yours. Therefore I can judge something as right or wrong.
You are no different, even though you like to think you are, your morals can change, and more importantly your churches morals can change, which is frightening, as does that mean if your church said, actually we need to kill all the Jews (you know like Hitler) would you?
And that is why ultimately your morals are corrupt, (or rather more corrupt than someone who does not believe) as they are no longer your own. As much as you think they are.
‘I don’t think you’ve really grasped the consequences of your argument – that morality is relative, fluid, etc. If that is really true, then you have nothing to say to another society who might disagree with you. Your morality, or our society’s, has no purchase on anyone else, why should it?’
Of course you have something to say, they clash with your morals!
There are no consequences of my argument, as it is simply the reality we inhabit.
Let’s try to distinguish between two points here.
1. Objective morality is not possible without God;
2. The Christian God is the source of morality etc.
What I’m arguing so far is (1), although I do believe (2) is true. You keep pointing out perceived flaws in Christian morality, but that misses my argument. (1) could still be true even if what you say is completely correct. However, I also think there are good replies to all of your points on Christian morality. We’ve talked about slavery etc. before though, so I don’t want to go into that here.
Maybe we could clarify. Can you give me yes or no answers: (1) would you agree that all morality is relative, and there is no ultimate right or wrong? (2) would you agree that there is no ultimate way of distinguishing whether one morality is better than the other?
Good article – http://kidswithoutgod.com/teens/ask/where-do-atheists-get-their-morality/
Counter article: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/moral
Wow, closing off the other discussion… Speaks volumes.
Sorry Darren. I can’t keep up with two discussions. I don’t have the time.
Lol that video is garbage.
And I have answered the questions raised in the video already.
2 things – Slavery and loans.
And as you have said to me in the past, if you don’t have time to reply, don’t, I’d much rather you replied properly than replied at all.
You have conveniently closed off the other argument and now you are closing off this one.
I thought you actually wanted to debate these issues. I offered that I wouldn’t comment any more if you didn’t want me to.
Well clearly you are happy in your ignorance. If you were not then you would engage me.
Disappointed in you.
I’m not closing off this discussion? Did you not see my other reply (2:50pm)? Maybe reply to that one and we can move on from there.
I do have time to reply to you, just not on two threads at once. And especially not two virtually identical discussions. I do want to engage you, and I hope I don’t appear to be unfriendly, but a man can only do so much, y’know 🙂
Ah didn’t see the 2.50pm reply. Odd.
‘Maybe we could clarify. Can you give me yes or no answers: (1) would you agree that all morality is relative, and there is no ultimate right or wrong? (2) would you agree that there is no ultimate way of distinguishing whether one morality is better than the other?’
1 – No.
Been through this already. You keep ignoring my points about morality being personal and being societal.
God has nothing to do with it, as you use a book to judge what ‘god’ wants. That book can be interpreted to say whatever you like (as we have explored before) therefore you cannot use it to seriously convey any morality. Slavery and Loans.
Yes, I think sometimes when you reply two or three times the first one can get lost. This system isn’t ideal but what can you do! 🙂
Thanks for clarifying. I’m sorry for asking but I genuinely don’t understand you. Honestly, I’m stumped. It just seems like you’re arguing two contradictory things. I don’t understand what you mean about morality being personal/societal and yet not relative. Let’s try an example.
You keep talking about slavery. But if I understand you correctly – if our society had no problem with slavery, there would be nothing wrong with it. It’s all down to personal and societal preference, right? So we could conceivably go back to there being slavery in this country and there would be nothing wrong with that. (Even if you personally disagree).
Isn’t that the logical implication of your view?
And what about other societies where certain things are considered moral, like e.g. stoning a woman caught in adultery. Now obviously you disagree with that. BUT – if the society thinks it’s moral, if most people in that society think it’s moral, then there’s no problem, right? There’s nothing intrinsically wrong in what they’re doing. You might prefer them to do something else, but they’re not right or wrong – they’re only right or wrong according to your personal preference. Your personal preference is no reason why any other society should do anything differently.
Ok so here is the rub.
My personal disagreement are my morals. Society can change as can personal morals. However they are still fixed unless reason and logic changes them.
This is the only way a civilized society can change its laws morals etc.
Your morals on the other hand are ‘fixed’ by god and as we already know going off slavery etc. they are not fixed. Quite the opposite in fact, looking at all the different christian denominations.
In a society that uses logic and reason to produce morals, slavery and the like will always be fixed as it causes suffering, and using reason and logic, you cannot prove that slavery is morally acceptable if you assume that all humans are equal, which any civilized society does.
It strives to improve itself constantly.
In the bible morality is not fixed.
Religion is deluded into thinking it is already there. It believes it has reached the moral pinnacle. Using an imperfect easily modifiable (by the speaker) book…
Can you see why I don’t really buy into this whole religion malarkey.
Your religious morals therefore have developed around a book, and over time that book has been altered and changed to suit the standards of the bearer. Sometimes that’s great. And sometimes it really really isn’t Westboro for example. Slave traders for example. Hitler for example.
Were they wrong? Did they interpret the bible incorrectly? No. They did not. They simply interpreted it differently from you.
Showing once again, religious morals are not fixed and are personal. Which is why I have such an issue when someone tries to use the bible to prove any point that is not part of the bible. Like SSM. You could argue that it is bad according to the bible, or like many churches in the states are doing, argue that it is good.
Unlike modern society which uses logic democracy and reason to set moral standards.
I think we’re basically at an impasse. Your major response to my point is to say that Christian morals have changed. But, whether that is true or not (and I don’t think it is true) then that doesn’t change my basic point: I say that we both think morality exists beyond merely the whim of a society, and the only way that can possibly be the case is if there is a God – something transcendent – to make it so. There’s no way around it.
“you cannot prove that slavery is morally acceptable if you assume that all humans are equal, which any civilized society does.”
For one, this is a circular argument (who says what a civilised society is?) and for two, I don’t think atheism would automatically lead you to the belief that everyone is equal. It’s easy to see how something like eugenics could lead to ethnic cleansing, or an ‘inferior race’ who were only fit to be slaves. In fact, science and early evolution was used at one point to justify the superiority of white people. I think this is simply another example of you attributing something to science which is actually from Christianity – the belief that all people should be treated equally, with dignity.
You say logic, democracy and reason can set moral standards. Well those things can lead to brutality and genocide just as easily as they can lead to peace. The highest death tolls of the 20th century were secular regimes.
I disagree that Christian morals have changed, as I said, but we’ve had that discussion before. Either way I would rather live in a world where God has given us the command to love Him and to love each other with all our hearts, where human life is precious because were are created in His image and we matter to Him.
God bless Darren,
‘Christian morals have changed. But, whether that is true or not (and I don’t think it is true)’
It is true.
Clearly – Slavery, loans, different denominations etc. To name just a few. To say they have not changed is to ignore truth.
And this is where the argument ends, you believe in a clear lie. I do not.
P.S. eugenics like clearly Roman Catholic Adolf Hitler eugenics?
I think the Christian church has been remarkably consistent in its morality for 2000 years. You keep mentioning slavery and loans as if that conclusively proves your case, but it doesn’t. And, as I said, even if you could prove that Christian morals have changed, it doesn’t touch my argument which is that without God there is no transcendent morality. That’s not the kind of world I want to live in, not the kind of world anyone wants to live in.
We’ve had the Hitler discussion before and I don’t really want to go through that again. I’d be interested to know if you can find any serious historian who actually believes Hitler was a Christian (unlike these guys, for example). Yes, the Nazi Eugenics programme is a good example of exactly my point. It depended on scientific, Darwinian ideas and not religious ideas about the value of human life. It must make very uncomfortable reading for you if you believe that morality is relative to society.
‘I think the Christian church has been remarkably consistent in its morality for 2000 years.’
Nope – Slavery thats just for starters. And its a biggy.
‘even if you could prove that Christian morals have changed, it doesn’t touch my argument which is that without God there is no transcendent morality’
– It clearly does, as even if there is a transcendent morality, it shows you and the church have no idea what that is.
Well frankly just read any of his religious rantings for proof. We’ve been through this one before. Hitler was a Catholic. But hey kind of off topic there.
Slaughtering the Jews, because of their religion. No sure atheists would definitely do that…. Or not…
Davnet – Erm… Maybe try a non bias religious propaganda website? Lol.
Regardless of religious or not, there will always be people who perform awful acts.
I think the key is that your morals are no more superior than mine (in fact like I have already stated I think they are morally inferior due to their lack of flexibility (even though they are flexible when pressure is applied, and ignorance of logic and reason)
You keep talking about slavery as if the whole church was pro-slavery and pro-slave trade right up until the abolition of slavery. This is simply not supportable by the facts. Have a read of Rodney Stark’s article, for one of many examples. Yes, you can find examples of people who used the Bible to justify the slave trade. But that was never the majority opinion. Slavery is one of those issues which repays study rather than repeating soundbites, as unfortunately I think a lot of internet discussion reduces to.
I agree that if the church doesn’t know what God intends for morality, that is a serious problem (although I disagree that this is true). But it does mean that it’s not meaningless to discuss whether something is more or less moral than something else. In other words, it makes moral discussion at least possible.
I’m afraid I’m going to continue to think the idea that Hitler was a Christian is absolute nonsense. Find me one serious historian or biographer of Hitler who thinks he was a Christian. I have no idea why you’re critical of “Davnet”. I just found it via a quick Google, I’m sure there are others. It seems that it’s not actually a website in itself, what I linked to is hosted on someone’s personal site. He does at least quote from reputable scholars and sources who have studied what Hitler actually said. If you want something more neutral try Wikipedia, which includes a quote by Laurence Rees: “Hitler’s relationship in public to Christianity—indeed his relationship to religion in general—was opportunistic. There is no evidence that Hitler himself, in his personal life, ever expressed any individual belief in the basic tenets of the Christian church”
“Regardless of religious or not, there will always be people who perform awful acts.”
You keep saying “awful acts” as if there is something transcendently bad about that. But, I remind you once again, according to your own beliefs as I understand them, they are only bad according to your own personal opinion and the opinion of society. They’re not bad in an objective sense. So, for example, what may be considered an awful act here is OK in another country. And neither of those countries is right or wrong, they’re just different.
I’m not saying my morals are superior or inferior to yours. I’m arguing that the whole concept of calling morality superior / inferior is meaningless without something outside ourselves to compare them to. Otherwise, all you have is a lot of opinions, none of them is better or worse, and you might as well pick one which suits you.
Think about the animal world – I don’t think animals are being immoral when they fight and kill each other. Why should humans be any different?
Firstly Hitler – Frankly to say Hitler was anything but a Catholic is ignorant. Read Mein Kampf. Then let me know what you think.
All the evidence shows he was religious, and the fact he was baptised, in the eyes of the church that very much makes him Roman Catholic.
‘I’m not saying my morals are superior or inferior to yours.’
Excuse my french but, total bollocks. Lol.
You believe your morals come from a mighty super power than is incredibly good etc etc.
If that isn’t believing your views are superior what is?!
‘Yes, you can find examples of people who used the Bible to justify the slave trade. But that was never the majority opinion.’
Wasn’t it? Really? I think if the civil war in America had gone the other way you might be saying things differently. The southern states would probably have disagreed.
“slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling” (Ephesians 6:5), or “tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect” (Titus 2:9).
And there are more if you’d like. That’s just 2 verses that were used to justify the slave trade.
‘Think about the animal world – I don’t think animals are being immoral when they fight and kill each other. Why should humans be any different?’
We have a conscience, we have morals because we are human!! Not because there is a god.
And frankly how awful that you would only wish to be good because a scary overseer might make you spend an eternity in hell if you don’t do what it wants, even though you have absolutely no idea what that is! It is literally lunacy.
It boils down to:
Religion – 1 book that can be used to support more or less any argument, and is used sometimes to support suicide bombers etc.
Society/Democracy – Where people vote, on morals and discuss different ideas to hopefully live in harmony.
Neither is perfect but I know which one I trust more.
You’ve not managed to find anyone who knows anything about Hitler who thought he was actually a Christian. Unless you can, I’m just going to repeat: it’s nonsense. He used the language of the church, yes. But as far as I can tell all the experts on him don’t think he was a Christian. If he was genuinely a Christian then it shouldn’t be hard to find people who thought he was. Otherwise it’s just disingenuous to claim that he was.
On ‘superior’ morality – I’m sorry Darren but you have completely misunderstood me. I have never said that my morals are superior to yours or anyone’s. I’m not arguing that mine come from God and yours don’t. I’m just saying that the reason we can have a conversation about morality *at all* is because God exists. We share common ground, we are both made in the image of God, we both have a conscience. The only difference between us is that I acknowledge it. (And yes, we do think differently about certain moral issues, but I don’t think less of you or anyone for holding different views. Do I think you’re wrong? Yes. But that doesn’t mean I think less of you, far from it.)
I’m aware of the Bible verses that were used to justify slavery. But, in a nutshell, the people who used them that way were plain wrong – see this article, for example.
Or another by Tim Keller, where he addresses another point but mentions slavery:
So yes, you can find examples of Christians who supported the slave trade and quoted the Bible by doing it. But they were always controversial and it was never the opinion of the church as a majority.
We do indeed have a conscience. Now, why do we have a conscience? I think that’s a really interesting question and I’d be fascinated to know an atheistic answer to it.
I’m sorry if I’m asking provocative questions here, Darren, but it seems to me that almost your entire view of the world is shaped by Christianity – in the West it’s almost impossible to separate out because Christianity has faded indistinguishably into the background of our common sense. I believe that if you tried to rebuild our society on atheistic principles you’d pull the rug out from under our feet, because almost everything that we hold dear – morally speaking at least – depends on Christian thinking, not reason.
By the way, I’m not arguing for “religion”. I’m arguing for Christianity. As I said in the original post here (and doesn’t that feel like a long time ago now), Christianity is not a religion. Religion is the problem, Christianity is the answer.
I just quoted (click link) someone who thinks that Hitler was a christian, along side direct quotes from Hitler himself proving he was christian as well as the fact that as he was baptised he is classed as a Roman Catholic in the eyes of the church.
As well as the fact he wages war on a Religious people.
Yup. He was Christian. Deal with it.
‘We share common ground, we are both made in the image of God, we both have a conscience. The only difference between us is that I acknowledge it.’
– Any evidence of this? No? Ok then.
Do you believe we were designed?
Also I think no less of you, and although these discussions are heated I do wish the best for you and you family.
Yes they were plain wrong in your opinion, in their opinion, in my opinion. But not according to the bible. As it is a tool that can be used to prove any point. As i have already showed.
It boils down to faith and indoctrination.
But they were always controversial and it was never the opinion of the church as a majority. – So the majority are correct? Firstly the south of the US were in a majority in favor in slavery.
But more importantly, taking the story of Jesus, where many people doubted him, he was not in the majority with his beliefs etc. So was he wrong? And by that stance, most of the UK and the US agree that Same Sex Marriage should be legal. So does that mean you are wrong?
Sure Christianity has helped shape society, now society is shaping Christianity, as it did so in the past, with loans for example.
‘Christianity is not a religion. Religion is the problem, Christianity is the answer.’
Erm… no… lol.
I did look at the link – I should have said, any experts – professionals. You know, academics who’ve actually studied Hitler. If Hitler really was a Christian there should be plenty of experts (biographers, historians, etc) who agree with you. But there aren’t. Not even Wikipedia does. I’m sorry, Darren, but I think I have the weight of scholarly opinion on my side when I say – Hitler was not Christian 🙂 I’m not ignoring the evidence.
Do I think we were designed? Yes. That doesn’t mean I’m a six-day creationist! I’m agnostic about the question of origins and evolution, I’m happy to go along with scientific consensus, but the point is that I think we are more than the sum of our parts. We are more than simply animals who happened to evolve.
Do I have evidence for the fact that we’re both created in God’s image? Well I’d say pretty strong evidence is the fact that you seem to think there are some things which are genuinely right and wrong (beyond simply your opinion, or even society’s opinion), as I’ve been trying to demonstrate all along 🙂 I think everyone is created with a knowledge of God, but yet we suppress the truth by nature. All of us know there is a God, all of us sense it, because we were made to be in a relationship with Him. But not all of us acknowledge it, and this is because of what the Bible calls sin. We hate God and don’t want him to be the Lord of our lives, so we do anything to avoid him – including pretending that He doesn’t exist.
I just think it’s so interesting that so many atheists seem to actively hate God. Someone once said atheists believe two things: (1) God doesn’t exist; (2) I hate Him. People like Dawkins and the like protest so vigorously against God, one has to wonder “methinks he doth protest too much”. I think atheists themselves actually demonstrate the truth of the Christian faith, even as they reject it 🙂
On slavery – I’m not saying that the majority is always right!!! But your whole argument rests on the fact that most of the church believed that slavery was OK, and then they didn’t. You’re saying it’s a clear example of the church changing its mind. I’m saying that this is not the case and is not supported by history. You can find a minority in the church who believe just about anything. But the fact that the minority believe it doesn’t mean that it is a truth the church as a whole believes.
By the way, you didn’t answer my question about why we have a conscience. I’m just curious 🙂
Like bias Davenet historians? Lol.
Look don’t take my word for it, take Hitlers directly –
Besides that, I believe one thing: there is a Lord God! And this Lord God creates the peoples.”  ~Adolf Hitler
“We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations; we have stamped it out”  ~Adolf Hitler
Or just read Mein Kampf.
‘Do I think we were designed? Yes.’
– I was hoping you’d say that – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cO1a1Ek-HD0
Pretty crap designer I’d say.
‘We hate God and don’t want him to be the Lord of our lives, so we do anything to avoid him – including pretending that He doesn’t exist.’
Lol, no really, he doesn’t exist. Well I mean if he does, then so might leprechauns. Really cannot rule that out.
“methinks he doth protest too much”
– Yea, when like me you are brought up in a Catholic environment and see the poison religion spreads, as well as un education, hate, 9/11 Paris attacks homophobia, making Aids a mainly African 3rd world problem etc.
It does kind of stick in the throat.
‘But your whole argument rests on the fact that most of the church believed that slavery was OK, and then they didn’t. ‘
– They really did. Lets pretend they didn’t. How did your church come to be? Are you saying your church is the only good church and that’s it. Or did a group of people disagree over some thing and create a new church. You know like Henry the VIII on divorce… Lol.
No idea why we have a conscience – Probably evolution ensuring survival of the species. I do not pretend to know all the answers.
Unlike god folk.
In the red corner, as far as I can tell we have just about every historian and biographer who knows anything about Hitler: he wasn’t a Christian but even hated the church and only used religious language to deceive and manipulate. In the blue corner, we have Darren and some guys on the internet who’ve mined Mein Kampf for a few quotes. I’m sorry, but I’m going to pitch my tent with the red corner.
I’m not going to argue on the Intelligent Design front – I have no real beef with evolution and I’m not going to debate on it. I think it’s possible to say that we’re designed but at the same time there are many things which are imperfect about this world – which is what the Christian faith does in fact say.
Why compare God with leprechauns, or anything? Let’s be honest here, atheists are in a tiny minority of people who have ever lived and who live now. Human beings seem pre-programmed to believe in God (a while back I read an article in the New Scientist which basically said just that). I know that doesn’t “prove” anything – but human beings seem programmed to look for God and an ultimate purpose in life in a way that they don’t look for leprechauns, the tooth fairy, Santa etc.
I actually agree with you on many of the problems of religion. But the problems you mention are caused by religion, not by Christianity.
“No idea why we have a conscience – Probably evolution ensuring survival of the species. I do not pretend to know all the answers.”
Oh, what a strong faith you have! 😉
The church never did have a united policy on divorce, in fact many bishops of the early church did allow for it in certain circumstances. I’m afraid this is another example of the church not changing its mind. You haven’t given me any evidence that the church in general believed slavery was OK, and I’ve given you a quote with several historians who think the “pro-slavery” part of the church was actually quite a small one and it was always contentious. You seem to think all the facts are on your side, but I can’t see that they are.
Ok lets leave the Hitler debate – Plenty of historians and evidence on my side too but we are getting side tracked.
Right so you’re saying our designer is just a bit shoddy? And in the bible it states god made adam and eve. You don’t believe that?
Cherry Pick Alert… hahaha
‘atheists are in a tiny minority of people’ – So… again you think if you are in the majority you are correct? Most Christians are not evangelical. So… you must be wrong?
Studies on the demographics of atheism have concluded that self-identified atheists comprise anywhere from 2% to 11% of the world’s population, whereas irreligious individuals comprise anywhere from 10% to 22% of the world’s population.
Atheists are the fastest growing group of people in the west as religion is losing ground.
In China, East Asia and Scandinavia atheists and the nonreligious are the majority. – Gallup Poll.
Atheists make up around 13% of the world population and that figure is growing.
Technically I’d be classed as a Roman Catholic, as I was baptised. Do I seem Roman Catholic to you? hahaha.
Why compare god and a mythical creature? Because to me they are one and the same thing.
Christianity is a tool used by religion. And that tool can be used for good or bad. They are pretty much the same thing.
Henry the VIII isn’t an example of the church changing its mind… hahahahahahahhahahahaha, bbbaaaaahahahahahhahahaha.
In conclusion. You have no evidence of a god. You have a book you use to guide your morals that can be used to convey any message you want, yes slavery, no slavery, yes/no divorce / yes/no loans etc etc.
“Plenty of historians on my side too” – well, it’s a shame you haven’t been able to name any of them 🙂 I’m not trying to have a dig, I’d genuinely like to know.
I think creation is good, but fallen. Sin affects and has affected everything, including creation. So yes, it’s not a surprise to find that the world is good but not perfect – it’s exactly the way the Bible says it is. We could spend hours debating Genesis (many Christians do, let alone atheists) but I don’t think that would be a fruitful discussion.
[As an aside – It’s interesting you talk about the “irreligious” – Theos did some research on this and found that people’s spiritual beliefs are in some respects stronger, even if they are no longer identifying themselves with any particular religion: see here, for example.]
“Henry the VIII isn’t an example of the church changing its mind… hahahahahahahhahahahaha, bbbaaaaahahahahahhahahaha.”
Um…. not quite sure how to respond to that, really. Ridicule is no substitute for evidence and argument.
Divorce had been known in the church before Henry VIII. It was permitted in the Israelite Law. Jesus even allows for it. (I had to write a paper on divorce and remarriage at theological college so I did a fair bit of reading about it). I found an interesting article about the history of marriage from Augustine through to Zwingli (from around the fourth century to the Reformation period). The church has always agreed that marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman – there has been fierce debate about which, if any, circumstances might permit divorce / remarriage. But to say that it’s a clear example of the church changing its teaching is false.
You keep bring up the example of slavery, divorce and loans as if those things prove that the church has changed its mind. But I think I’ve offered you counter evidence for both slavery and divorce. I haven’t really talked about loans, I’m sorry, but there is lots of info out there such as The Ethics of Usury written by a former lecturer of mine, or this article.
You keep accusing me of ignoring the evidence, but I think I’ve presented counter evidence to just about everything you’ve said and it seems to me that you simply ignore it because it doesn’t fit with what you’ve already decided is true. At the very least, while you claim that it’s “clear” that the evidence is on your side, I think what I’ve presented says – no, it’s not. These issues are complex and can’t just be reduced to a few soundbites to prove a point.
In conclusion: I think you hate God and want to shut Him out of your life, but He loved you enough to send Jesus Christ to die for you if only you would accept Him. Loved this Christmas.. No-one is beyond the grace and love of God… even if they spend years pretending He doesn’t exist 🙂
God bless you Darren,