A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible

A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible
Hunc tu caveto.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Deuteronomy Chapter 15 tackles the troubling issue of poverty and slavery. I think it has some nice things to say about poverty.

15:7 says, "If there be among you a poor man ... thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother."

And 15:11 says, (15:11)"Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy."

Yes. That's great advice! It still sounds good to this very day. Would you agree?

And then there's slavery.

15:12-17 says, "If thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee.
and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day. And it shall be, if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee; because he loveth thee and thine house, because he is well with thee. Then thou shalt take an aul, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever."

Basically, after a slave's seven year term, hook him up and be generous to him as he parts ways. If he/she wants to stay with you, drill a hole through his ear into a door and he'll be your servant for life.

Judging from a modern-day perspective, more than 2,000 years later, a perspective with the hindsight of the Civil Rights era, the American Civil War, and the various practices of slavery before then; slavery has been a big moral issue for humanity. It's still a big issue today; and the arguments even delve into what is called wage slavery - which is basically what everyone calls "working". Anytime another human's labor is owned, and not purchased in any way, that raises the question of slavery and whether it is moral.

But 3,000 years ago when Deuteronomy was written, nobody in ancient Israelite society had these conversations (or at least published them).

So I ask you, the reader, this: What is it that makes it possible for people today to pick up the Bible, read Deuteronomy Chapter 15, and see that one set of passages are moral, and another set isn't?

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Because our previous thread is difficult to find, I'm moving my response here. I will read and comment on this latest blog later.

Previously, Andrew said:

"Overall, I think we're almost in agreement. The only difference seems to be your emphasis on Judeo-Christian thought, as if it is the end-all and be-all of all our ethics.

It isn't."

I maintain that Judeo-Christian ethics is the end-all and be-all because it IS the heart of Western ethics. Jews and then Christians have been working on a systematic rational system of ethics for 3000 years. I'm unaware of any other source which even comes close.

What I've been looking for, from you, is a clear deliniation of a moral system, which is completely independent of Biblical moraliy. If you wish to completely reject Biblical morality, you need something viable to replace it.

"The roots of western morality may very well be with the Greek philosophers. Ancient Israelite 'theology' didn't have much of an impact on western nations until a few centuries after Christianity began. There was interaction with Jews, but Judaism wasn't the dominant religion."

You are correct about the importance of the Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle. Like the Jews and Christians, they seem to have been monotheists. They made great contributions to our ability to express philospohical ideas in a rational systematic manner. From the earliest days, Christians have appreciated and integrated Greek philosophy into Christian theology.

Andrew said:

"But even moreso then the earliest philosophers, the roots of morality is largely biological. Theology, ethics, etc. all stem from, and are in fact only possible because of, those biological tendencies."

I disagree. Your statement strikes me as analogous to a statement that quantum physics is an inevitable expression of the physical universe. Here's why. Both Judeo-Christian ethics and physics take into account the natural world. They would be impossible without the natural world. However, they are both the result of centuries of rational study and debate. Both of these discussions began with the assumption that because there is one God, there is universal truth, which can be discovered.

Because Christian morality is oriented primarily to minister to the good of humanity, by its very nature, it must take into account human biology, and must be compatible with human nature. Human nature serves Christian morality in a manner somewhat analogous to the physical world in physics. When you point out that Judeo-Christian ethics is compatible with human nature, you are inadvertantly confirming that our Judeo-Christian predecessors have been successful in their endeavor.

Neither field is self evident to just anyone who has human nature and a brain. If morality were a self evident componant of human nature, there wouldn't have been any discussion, since everyone would have already known everything and would have agreed.

What I've been looking for, from you, is for you to iterate your own system of morality, while avoiding any dependance on the morality in the Bible.

Dennis

Anonymous said...

Continued:

Andrew said:

"Fairness and compassion account for large swathes of what philosophy and religion have sought to explain about our perception of morality. Those traits seem to be hardwired into all social mammals; and even get more complex in larger brained species."

I believe I have read some studies which scientists have interpreted to show that social mammals are capable of recognizing the concept of "fairness." Just because an animal or person recognizes "fairness" does not mean that they also accept the obligation for they, themselves, to be "fair" to other individuals when it is to their advantage to be "unfair." The reason the Israelites and later the Christians began their quest for morality is because human behavior is often very "unfair" and "cruel." Those, who worship a good God, who is personally moral, and who is concerned that we are also moral, have a reason to treat other people "fairly," even when it is to their advantage to be "unfair." Unbelievers lack that motivation.Andrew said:
"I really don't understand your point when you said, "I reject some of the things which I find in the books of Moses BECAUSE my moralty is based on the Bible."

Why do you reject slavery?"

Christians have always been concerned about human freedom and equality before God. Because slavery, by definition, depends upon threatened violence and coercion, slavery has always had a hard time thriving in Christian society. It has flaired up at times, but has not been able to establish itself as a permanent fixture. The American Civil War was largely a religious war, about the proper interpretation of the Bible. It settled this very issue, whether slavery is Biblically sound. Since then, Christians have rejected slavery as immoral.

I should answer the rest of your question, but it is late, so I will close for now.


Dennis

Andrew P. said...

"If you wish to completely reject Biblical morality, you need something viable to replace it."

No, I don't. It has already been replaced. It's very similar to the concept of evolution. Did mammals replace single-celled organisms? No. Are mammals single-celled organisms? No.

Maybe you can be more specific, because I'm not buying your argument. Can you give me some examples of how Judeo-Christian ethics is the end-all and be-all of western ethics?

Anonymous said...

Andrew resonded to my post:
""If you wish to completely reject Biblical morality, you need something viable to replace it."

No, I don't. It has already been replaced. It's very similar to the concept of evolution. Did mammals replace single-celled organisms? No. Are mammals single-celled organisms? No"

To me it appears that you have opinions about what is moral and what is immoral, but you have not explained logically how you make those moral judgments. I've asked you the same question in several different ways, but still don't understand how you make moral judgments. I'll ask the questions one last time. Do you have fundamental moral principles? If you do, are they universal truth, or are they just your personal opinion? If you don't believe in universal moral truth, then aren't your moral pronouncements just your personal opinion? If your morality is simply your opinion, when you say you say that the Bible is wrong, aren't you being inconsistant? Why should anyone value your private opinion above the opinion of the Bible authors?

Andrew said:
"Maybe you can be more Maybe you can be more specific, because I'm not buying your argument. Can you give me some examples of how Judeo-Christian ethics is the end-all and be-all of western ethics?specific, because I'm not buying your argument. Can you give me some examples of how Judeo-Christian ethics is the end-all and be-all of western ethics?"

What I actually said is that Judeo-Christian morality is the basis of TRADITIONAL Western ethics. I'm not sure there is anything left which can be labed "Western ethics." What we have now is a hodgepodge of competing ideologies each striving to gain political power. Many people are certain that certain things are immoral, but they have no logical basis to support those feelings.

The reason I accept the Judeo-Christian system of morality as the most important componant of traditional Western ethics, is because according to history, it is. For 1,500 years, Western Europe was predominantly Christian. It wasn't Muslim, it wasn't Hindu, it wasn't Marxist. It was Judeo-Christian culture.

Dennis

Andrew P. said...

I'm still not buying your Judeo-Christian morality = Western morality argument. Upon close examination, it just seems to ignore every other aspect of what morality is.

Dennis said, "To me it appears that you have opinions about what is moral and what is immoral, but you have not explained logically how you make those moral judgments ... Do you have fundamental moral principles?"

First, I did explain how these judgments are made, but in an admittedly scattered manner. I make those moral judgments by using my brain which is hardwired to be fair and compassionate toward others of the same species, family, tribe, etc. So right there is your 'universal' standard, and it is based on fairness and compassion. A universal standard might not equate to universal truth. After all, morality based on fairness and compassion may be different for an alien; but it works for humans. As such, it comes to something that is basically situational ethics.

But I don't think you can claim Judeo-Christian ethics harbors 'universal truth', either. Lying is immoral, but in some cases it would be more immoral not to lie. Killing people is immoral, but sometimes it is justified.

And when it comes to making moral judgments about Bible verses, it's the same thing. The Golden Rule is fair and compassionate; killing a wife who isn't a virgin on her father's doorstep isn't.

Clearly, Biblical morality is contradictory, and therefore substandard to the more natural explanation that I'm bringing up. The natural explanation has a larger, overarching explanatory power than Judeo-Christian explanations. After all, Biblical morality is based on nothing more than the prescientific writings of Middle Eastern Bronze and Iron Age tribesmen within their religious context. In other words, it's just conjecture by an ancient people, and so truth-seekers should, at best, take it with a grain of salt.

Nonetheless, your morality that you are defending rests on whether Yahweh is real. If Yahweh isn't real; then Judeo-Christian morality is what you said; merely an opinion and a particularly bad one at that. And I'd have to ask the same question you've been asking: Why should I care about what you think Judeo-Christian ethics is, since it is merely an opinion?

So, I think we ought take this conversation to the next level. How do you prove that Yahweh is real and that Judeo-Christian morality, even though it's contradictory, is His moral standard?

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
"First, I did explain how these judgments are made, but in an admittedly scattered manner. I make those moral judgments by using my brain which is hardwired to be fair and compassionate... So right there is your 'universal' standard, and it is based on fairness and compassion. A universal standard might not equate to universal truth. After all, morality based on fairness and compassion may be different for an alien; ...but it works for humans...basically situational ethics."

Thank-you. Now I understand better where you are coming from. I will now reciprocate and give you my fundamental moral principles, which come from the Bible. According to Jesus, who was a practicing Jew, who was much closer to Moses than we, the following moral principles are the best summary of Old Testament morality.

Matt 22:35-40
35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
37 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
NIV

I do not accept your argument that "fairness" and "compassion" are hard wired into the human brain. Without a conscious commitment to God's goodness, human behavior is anything except "fair" and "compassionate." Let me give a few examples. 1. I understand that the Aztecs scalded captives on a fire before leading them up their pyramids and killing them. 2. I have seen a picture in the National Geographic Magazine showing a pot from South America which portrayed a man, who had been flayed and staked outside. A crow was sitting on top of the stake preparing to peck out the man's eyes. Apparently the pot was used to celebrate the event. 3. From history, I understand that the Romans had their "games" in the Colosseum where the crowds shouted and jeered when people were torn apart by wild animals, hacked each other apart, or were burned alive at the stake. 4. I am aware of many modern counter examples, such as Communists, and Nazis, who gloried in their cruelty and murder. They didn't demonstrate natural human goodness.

Since humans throughout history have not been "fair" or "compassion" to each other, why should I reject Jesus' morality, and opt for something is theoretically hardwired into people, but which is usually surpassed by other human traits like blood lust, and greed, and craze for power? Real people are much closer to your "aliens," who are exempt from the need to act with "compassion" and "fairness," than to your idealized humans. Biblical morality is necessary because people are not naturally good.

Andrew said:
"But I don't think you can claim Judeo-Christian ethics harbors 'universal truth', either...Killing people is immoral, but sometimes it is justified."

I do, indeed, claim that Judeo-Christian ethics contain universal truth. They are universal because they are derived on the will of a good God. I agree that we must take into account the specific circumstances in which morality is exercised. Universal truths are those which apply across all circumstances. The answer to your example about "killing," I understand the Biblical commandment is "Thou shalt not murder."

Andrew said:
"And when it comes to making moral judgments about Bible verses, it's the same thing. The Golden Rule is fair and compassionate; killing a wife who isn't a virgin on her father's doorstep isn't."

Fair enough.

Dennis

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
"Clearly, Biblical morality is contradictory, and therefore substandard to the more natural explanation that I'm bringing up. The natural explanation has a larger, overarching explanatory power than Judeo-Christian explanations....In other words, it's just conjecture by an ancient people, and so truth-seekers should, at best, take it with a grain of salt."

If the moral statements in the Bible were just random, without any organizing principles, I would agree. That is not the case. There are powerful organizing principles within the Bible. The primary principle is that there is one God, who cares about the welfare of humans. Over time, the Israelites were able to use this organizing principle to build a remarkable moral structure.

Andrew asked:
"So, I think we ought take this conversation to the next level. How do you prove that Yahweh is real and that Judeo-Christian morality,...is His moral standard?"

That is an excellent question. It will take awhile to discuss that topic. Let me begin by presenting a principle which I have discovered in Jesus' teachings. Faith is a choice we make, just like disbelief is a choice. Before Jesus would work a miracle for other people, he required them to exercise faith. I used to wonder why? Later, through personal experience, I discovered that if we choose unbelief, no evidence, not even a miracle, can persuade us to believe. Once we choose to believe, then evidence can strengthen our belief. This principle works across all aspects of our life. A secular example is people who have chosen to deny the holocaust. For some of them, it is impossible to provide them with sufficient evidence to convince them it actually happened.

Proof is a difficult standard to meet. Sir Isaac Newton, who was one of the greatest scientific geniuses in history, thought he had demonstrated God’s existence through his physics. While the French philosophes reveled in his physics, ironically, they used Newton’s equations to establish to their satisfaction that Newton’s God did not exist. For some reason, they ignored the “occult” element in Newton’s physics. Newton, himself, recognized that gravity had an intangible quality which was almost as mysterious as God. He believed that gravity was an evidence of God’s active interaction with his creation. Einstein revised the theory of gravity, so that matter can somehow curve space itself. Yet, the occult aspect of physics persists. Each level of explanation exposes a deeper set of mysteries.

You are undoubtedly aware of the traditional philosophical proofs for God’s existence. My favorite is that God is the first cause. Quantum physics has thrown a curve into the argument. This breakdown in causality prompted Einstein to exclaimed, “God does not play dice”. Never the less, at the macro level, causation persists and is still an excellent argument for God’s existence.

Many modern thinkers have rejected a priori arguments and expect empirical proof. However, they are certain to be disappointed. Induction does not rise to the level of proof. David Hume’s argument, that empirical evidence can not rise to the level of proof, is very convincing. Induction can be used to disprove a faulty hypothesis, but positive evidence does not establish the truth of a hypothesis.
There is a great deal of empirical evidence which supports God’s existence, but I don’t believe that the empirical evidence can be construed as proof.

Dennis

Andrew P. said...

Jesus' summary of Old Testament morality is sugar-coated. I see OT morality as being about unquestioning obedience to the priesthood and protecting the family line at all costs.

Dennis said, "I do not accept your argument that "fairness" and "compassion" are hard wired into the human brain. Without a conscious commitment to God's goodness, human behavior is anything except "fair" and "compassionate."

Everything I'm saying here is supported by modern neuroscience. I mentioned it before, but there's a very large xenophobic component to the hardwired fairness and compassion of which I am speaking of. In all of your examples, even the oppressive Nazis practiced 'fairness' and 'compassion' to their own group (or tribe), but not toward 'others'. We are hardwired to think of ourselves as parts of a team, even if the only things we have in common are circumstantial. Put a bunch of people in a room, one group wearing red shirts and the other wearing blue shirts, and the people within those groups will begin indentifying themselves by their shirts, and even have a weird sense of pride about it.

Now obviously, human thought can alter this instinct. For example, some Israelite priest apparently thought it was a good idea to kill women who weren't virgins. Or we can go past the xenophobic tendencies and embrace all people as being part of the same tribe. Sometimes, a person is born without this instinct. We call them sociopaths.

Dennis said, "The primary principle is that there is one God, who cares about the welfare of humans."

This is not a primary principle of the Bible. Throughout the OT, there is reference to "other gods". The earliest Israelites just held Yahweh up as the one whom they worship.

This stems from their ancient heritage before they started the Yahwist religion. In Sumerian religion, Yahweh (or El), was the chief of all the gods and goddesses in the Sumerian/Canaanite pantheon. He even had a wife named Asherah. That's why the Israelite kings went through such harsh reforms, destroying the groves in the high places and stomping out the general trend of the Israelite people to continue worshipping their idols.

Regarding your statement of choosing faith or disbelief: I used to be a Christian. I really did try to believe. Many nonbelievers have done the same exact thing. I think the standards of what is or isn't a miracle are just too high for some people. So believing or not believing isn’t really a choice. It’s merely the willingness to call a spade a spade; aka intellectual honesty.

All the proofs of god's existence that you give are for the deist god. I really don't mind the deist god. I understand the philosophical problems with deism, but if that's all that people believed I wouldn't have practical reason to reject it.

I’m assuming that you’re a Christian, and therefore you believe that the Gospel accounts of miracles attributed to Jesus are true. The ‘truth’ of the Gospels is all I have to deal with in order to reject Christianity. I think there’s good reasons to reject the Gospels as being completely true.

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:

"Jesus' summary of Old Testament morality is sugar-coated. I see OT morality as being about unquestioning obedience to the priesthood and protecting the family line at all costs."

Perhaps I misunderstand you. It appears that you believe that a twentieth century man, Andrew, who is probably minimally acquainted with the ancient Hebrew culture, knows more about that culture than a man who was raised and lived in that culture. Furthermore, it seems that Andrew believes that Jesus was able to jump outside of his own culture to "sugar coat" it in discussions with other people who also lived in his Hebrew culture. Do I read you correctly?

Andrew said:
"Everything I'm saying here is supported by modern neuroscience. I mentioned it before, but there's a very large xenophobic component to the hardwired fairness and compassion of which I am speaking of..."

Perhaps you can help me out. From science, I'm not sure how you arrive at that conclusion. If people of many different cultures routinely torture and kill other people, how is it possible that someone studying neurons can come up with information which shows that people don't really do those things? The word, xenophobia, doesn't explain much either. Most of the cruelty I've mentioned was done by people who were very close to the perpetrators. For instance, the Chinese Communists tortured and killed other Chinese, not black Africans. The same thing with the Cambodian Communists who killed other Cambodians. I really don't follow your argument.

Obviously, people are capable of fairness and compassion, other wise we wouldn't be able to talk about them. Because we are capable of those emotions, it is safe to say that our neurons are able to support those emotions. No big surprise here. Since people are often cruel, obviously neurons are also capable of supporting cruelty. So what have we learned? The brain is capable of supporting a wide range of behavior, what does neurophysiology have to do with morality?

So far, your only argument to include "compassion" and "fairness" in your list of moral imperatives is because they are "hard wired in to the brain". By the same argument, you must also enshrine brutality and "xenophobia" as moral imperatives since they are also "hard wired into the brain". If moral behavior is any type of behavior which our neurons are capable of supporting, you have no reason to reject pedophiles who are also hardwired to love children. Since sociopaths are "hardwired" to be sociopaths, if you are consistent in your arguments, you must acknowledge that they are acting morally when they act violently against other people. If I understand your argument correctly, ultimately you must conclude that all natural behavior is moral behavior. Is that what you believe? Do you have other criterion to differentiate moral behavior from immoral behavior?

Dennis

Anonymous said...

my response continued


Andrew said:
"Now obviously, human thought can alter this instinct. For example, some Israelite priest apparently thought it was a good idea to kill women who weren't virgins. Or we can go past the xenophobic tendencies and embrace all people as being part of the same tribe."

Since you are trying to establish a moral code based on brain physiology, I assume that you must be a materialist. Otherwise, brain chemistry would be irrelevant. If materialists are correct, it is probably not possible to alter your instincts through "human thought", since "human thought" is at best an epiphenomenon produced by brain chemistry and instincts. An epiphenomenon is unable to alter brain function in any way. Instincts and "hardwired" brain functions can only change when there is a change in the environment. The thoughts will reflect that change, but can not initiate it.

Andrew posted:
"Dennis said, "The primary principle is that there is one God, who cares about the welfare of humans."

This is not a primary principle of the Bible. Throughout the O.T., there is reference to "other gods". The earliest Israelites just held Yahweh up as the one whom they worship."

The history of how the Israelites arrived at monotheism is irrelevant to my morality, so long as I accept their conclusion. Since I believe that there is one God who is moral, and loves every one of us, he is my absolute moral standard. What universal moral standard do you rely on?

Andrew said:

"Regarding your statement of choosing faith or disbelief: I used to be a Christian. I really did try to believe. Many nonbelievers have done the same exact thing. I think the standards of what is or isn't a miracle are just too high for some people. So believing or not believing isn’t really a choice. It’s merely the willingness to call a spade a spade; aka intellectual honesty."

I understand that many honest people have been convinced, through faulty arguments, that it is impossible to be intellectually honest and to believe in the Christian God. The people who make those claims, begin their arguments from their own unproven axioms. Those axioms predetermine the outcome. Since you have mentioned miracles, let me ask you, do you believe that miracles are impossible? Are you basing that belief on David Hume?

Andrew said:

"All the proofs of god's existence that you give are for the deist god. I really don't mind the deist god... I’m assuming that you’re a Christian, and therefore you believe that the Gospel accounts of miracles attributed to Jesus are true. The ‘truth’ of the Gospels is all I have to deal with in order to reject Christianity. I think there’s good reasons to reject the Gospels as being completely true."

The traditional proofs of God are compatible with the Deist God, but are not limited to a Deist God. The argument that God is the first cause is very powerful, especially now, since scientists have discovered evidence that the universe had a beginning.

I do believe the New Testament miracles. I have no a priori bias against miracles, so why shouldn't I believe? Jesus, himself, said that the only miracle we should rely on is his resurrection. That is not because the other miracles are false, but because they were private events. The crucifixion was public. The empty tomb was available for everyone to examine.

No, I don't believe the New Testament is completely true. It is based on eye witness testimony, but eye witness accounts always vary. The New Testament has numerous contradictions between the gospels which usually do not alter the core ingredients in the stories.

Dennis

Andrew P. said...

Dennis said, “It appears that you believe that a twentieth century man, Andrew, who is probably minimally acquainted with the ancient Hebrew culture, knows more about that culture than a man who was raised and lived in that culture…”

Dennis, please don’t get all culturally relativistic on me. People in any century, even back then, can see what OT morality is about if they just read it. It’s about obedience to the priesthood (via their interpretation of Yahweh), and protecting the family line at all costs. In fact, OT family values is about incest, mass slaughter and genetic purity through the patriarchal line. This is fairly normal given the time period. But we in the 21st century can see it that, at best, the ancient Israelites didn't have their priorities straight. Hindsight is 20/20.

Dennis said, “Perhaps you can help me out. From science, I'm not sure how you arrive at that conclusion …”

All I’ve said is that our brains are hardwired to be fair and compassionate toward one’s own tribe, and xenophobic and even cruel toward people who aren’t part of the club. The very fact that there were Nazis means that there were a bunch of people who organized around some common trait. The same with the Chinese Communists and Cambodian Khmer Rouge; they were fair and compassionate to each other, but they didn’t reciprocate this sense to the perceived outsiders, hence the term 'xenophobia'. This is true in all cultures, even the ancient Israelites. Deuteronomy 14:21 is a benign example of this.

Additionally, human thought circumvents this xenophobic component of our psyche in a myriad of ways. Humans group other humans into all sorts of different categories. It’s all fairly arbitrary, too. “We believe in this God; they believe in that God.”

Andrew P. said...

Dennis said, “If moral behavior is any type of behavior which our neurons are capable of supporting, you have no reason to reject pedophiles who are also hardwired to love children.”

I’d be inclined to call that a straw man.

I’m not suggesting moral relativism. My universal standard is fairness and compassion in all humans; punishment in kind toward the individuals who break it. Would you say that a rapist is being fair or compassionate toward the woman? Isn’t a woman also a human being? I hope your answer is that the rapist is quite guilty of breaking this rule.

Here’s the thing, though. You seem to believe that if God sanctioned the rape, then it would be okay. Your morality is circumvented by God either directing it or allowing it. Lot gave up his daughters to be raped by a mob; this can be seen as moral from the religious perspective, and so is God’s request for Abraham to sacrifice his son. If all our morality is based on what we THINK God wants, then we’re still just using our thoughts to guide our morality.

Fortunately, people DON’T use religion as the basis of their morality. If there’s anything different about what I’m saying here, it’s that morality isn’t based on arbitrary attempts to categorize humans. Our western political philosophy of a secular liberal democratic-republic is largely based on this. The only arbitrary limit I can think of for our political philosophy is the border of the nation. But as individuals, we universalize it. We can say with some confidence that the ancient Israelites were morally wrong on the question of slavery, and that the Khmer Rouge were morally wrong for killing intellectuals whom they saw as outsiders.

Dennis said, “The argument that God is the first cause is very powerful, especially now, since scientists have discovered evidence that the universe had a beginning.”

I disagree with the conclusion. The only argument that is powerful about what we know about the universe right now is that there’s a gap in our knowledge. This gap is indeed compatible with either a deist or pantheist god, given the philosophical problems for them. But it’s important to note that there’s a big difference between a deist god and a god that Bronze Age humans have conjured up.

Unlike deism, which is contingent on a First Cause, Yahweh is contingent only on whether the storyline of the Bible is true. There’s a lot of contradictions; and therefore many different beliefs within Judeo-Christianity itself, but the story goes like this: A perfect God created an imperfect people, whom He cursed mainly because of their imperfection (a rebellion consisting of a naked woman being tricked by a talking snake into eating a magical fruit). To make up for this, He offers salvation by sending His Son down to be executed by these imperfect people, as a sacrifice to Himself for how imperfect they are. And all we have to do is believe this (or accept it). If we don’t, Yahweh, who loves us, will either send us to a fiery pit or just cut us off (depending on what you believe about hell). If I could condense the whole storyline, that’s basically it.

What reasons are there to accept this?

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
"Dennis, please don’t get all culturally relativistic on me. People in any century, even back then, can see what OT morality is about if they just read it..."

Your response is interesting to say the least. If you think that I am advocating moral relativism, let me assure you that is not the case. Cultural relativism can be a useful tool to study other cultures, however that beside the point. What has me baffled is how you propose to read translations of a set of books which were originally written in archaic Hebrew, and to understand those books better than individuals who actually lived in that culture. Jesus was an observant Jew who lived in the Hebrew culture 2000 when the laws of Moses were still practiced. He, and his contemporaries, were in a much better position to interpret the Old Testament morality than we are. I his culture, there were different schools of thought about Old Testament exegesis. The reason that the scholar asked Jesus the question was to discover how Jesus approached scripture. After Jesus answered the question, the scholar agreed that Jesus’ answer was correct. Instead of flipping Jesus and many of his contemporaries off, I approach the Old Testament with a different attitude. I want to discover what Jesus knew which I’ve missed.

Andrew said:
"All I’ve said is that our brains are hardwired to be fair and compassionate toward one’s own tribe, and xenophobic and even cruel toward people who aren’t part of the club..."

Perhaps we differ in our understanding of what it means for the brain to be "hard wired." Let me give an example. People are "hard wired" to see colors and shapes. Everyone who has a normal brain and eye function can see. If people were hardwired to be “fair and compassionate” towards their “own tribe,” then we should expect everyone who has normal brain function to always act fairly and compassionately towards other members of their own tribe. This is simply not true. I have offered many counter examples. Let me expand on one of these, the Nazis. Before the holocaust against the Jews, the Nazis began their "cleansing" by murdering other Germans who were mentally retarded or otherwise mentally disabled. Even within their own inner circle, they didn’t show fairness or compassion. In order to establish their total dominance in the society, the top Nazis murdered many of their own Brown Shirts, whom they believed might be competition for power. Hitler and his clique were neither compassionate nor fair towards their “own tribe.” The best which you can demonstrate is that people are "fair and compassionate" when they feel like it. I’m not sure how that supports anything approaching a moral system.

Andrew said:
"I’m not suggesting moral relativism. My universal standard is fairness and compassion in all humans; punishment in kind toward the individuals who break it. Would you say that a rapist is being fair or compassionate toward the woman?..."

From your response, it appears that you have chosen fairness and compassion as your own person standards of morality. I agree that you have established that a rapist is breaking your rules. You still have not provided any reason that other people should accept your rules for themselves. In other words, your personal rules are a true statement of your present state of mind.

I'm still mystified about how your personal beliefs about "fairness and compassion" are universal laws if they are your private choice. It seems that many other people have the right to chose entirely different universal rules.

Continued below:

Anonymous said...

Continued:

Andrew replied:
"Dennis said, “The argument that God is the first cause is very powerful, especially now, since scientists have discovered evidence that the universe had a beginning.”

I disagree with the conclusion. The only argument that is powerful about what we know about the universe right now is that there’s a gap in our knowledge. This gap is indeed compatible with either a deist or pantheist god, given the philosophical problems for them. But it’s important to note that there’s a big difference between a deist god and a god that Bronze Age humans have conjured up."

A "gap in our knowledge" implies that we could someday be able to fill in that "gap," and to explain the origin of the universe. That is not the case. Many thinkers have avoided the problem by postulating that the universe is eternal. That doesn't really explain anything, but an eternal universe is helpful to avoid the eternal God. If the universe has an origin, as science now suggests, its origin is beyond human explanation.

I don't follow your argument that the God "that Bronze Age humans have conjured up", doesn't fit with this proof. The Bible says that God is the creator of the universe. It is probably not an accident that one of the first thinkers to arrive at the "big bang" was a Roman Catholic priest.

I agree that deism is also a logical solution for the origin of the universe. On the other hand, pantheism fails, since it equates the universe with God. Since the pantheistic god IS the universe, it offers no tools to explain the origin of the universe.

Andrew asked:
"Unlike deism, which is contingent on a First Cause, Yahweh is contingent only on whether the storyline of the Bible is true. There’s a lot of contradictions; and therefore many different beliefs within Judeo-Christianity itself,...If I could condense the whole storyline, that’s basically it.

What reasons are there to accept this?"

The argument from the first cause is sufficient to establish that there is probably a God. It is not intended to establish the entire range of qualities which God possesses. That takes other arguments. I will be glad to discuss further evidence in the future, but I must go for now. Perhaps I can return later today or tomorrow and expand on this discussion.

Dennis

Anonymous said...

Evidence for God continued.

“I think, therefore I am.”; Rene Descartes

In a previous discussion with Andrew, I touched on the implications of materialism for human consciousness. If the alternative to God, is materialism, then it is self contradictory, when atheists make truth claims. Materialists believe that everything in the universe, including human thoughts, are completely reducible to physics. They thus reduce conscious thoughts to an epiphenomenon, which reflects the physical state of the brain, but which can not change physical processes. Consequentially, when a materialist claims that he/she is consciously weighing evidence and choosing truth, he/she is reporting an illusion, if such a thing is possible.

Even if an epiphenomenon were able to actively select among options, it would not be able to report its conclusion to other minds, since that report would require activation of the material which makes up the motor cortex of the brain. According to materialists that is impossible since an epiphenomenon can not alter the physical state of matter in any way. If a materialist acknowledges that the conscious mind is able to change the state of the material world through thoughts alone, that admission opens the door to God. Atheists would rather deny their own conscious experience, and to attribute their perceived agency as conscious beings to illusion, than to admit that there is a greater consciousness, God, our father.

Some materialist thinkers have tried to get around the problem of consciousness, by attributing consciousness to matter itself. In this view, consciousness is a property of matter, similar to mass and energy. This theory is a response to the otherwise insurmountable problem which consciousness presents to materialists. Its greatest weakness is that, so far, physicists have not discovered evidence that raw matter is conscious. They have described many elementary forces which are inherent in to matter, but consciousness is not in that list. Some materialists have postulated that consciousness is an “emergent property” of matter which is only apparent in certain situations, i.e. human minds. This theory seems reasonable, but without experimental demonstration, it is nothing but an ad hoc solution. If consciousness is an inherent property of matter, then consciousness was present, at least in latent form, at the moment of creation. Since consciousness was inserted into the material world at the time of creation, the source of creation probably also possessed the property of consciousness. At least, there is no reason to believe that consciousness is limited to our own material universe.

Dennis

Anonymous said...

I wish to use a statement from Godel to enable me to transition back from a discussion about God's existence to our discussion about morality. The quote is embedded in a discussion by Larrey Anderson about morality at the American Thinker

Larrey Anderdson said:

"The battle of the logical positivists to establish a complete and consistent logic was defeated on both fronts by Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems. Logic is not mechanical. It does rely on human intuition. And logical truths probably are natural, objective, and not man-made -- much like the weather.

Kurt Gödel was given scant recognition for the most important advances in logic since Aristotle. Gödel, after all, believed in God[ix]. He believed that truth is eternal and not an invention of human beings. In fact, Gödel stated:

'[Apriorism] belongs in principle on the right, and empiricism on the left side. ... [One] sees also that optimism belongs in principle toward the right and pessimism toward the left. ... Another example of a theory evidently on the right is that of an objective justice and objective aesthetic values, whereas the interpretation of ethics and aesthetics on the basis of custom, upbringing, etc., belongs toward the left. ... [The] development of philosophy since the Renaissance has by and large gone from right to left[x].'

Little wonder that Gödel was not popular with his fellow academicians -- even though, intellectually speaking, he stood head and shoulders above all of them."
http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/03/logical_positivism_and_the_ipc.html

Godel's argument about ethics is very important in our discussion.

Although I am not able to attain the intellectual heights gained by Godel, from my personal experience I can testify that Godel seems to be correct. I have not discovered a firm logical argument for morality derived from materialism. If people are nothing but a complex arrangement of atoms, then everything we can possibly know about them should be included in physics. Since I have not discovered a Physics book which presents experimental evidence for an inhernet property called "morality" within matter, I do not know where a materialist could possible find a universal morality. Perhaps they could appeal to pragmatism, but pragmatism can only present a method to achieve a desired goal. Since individual people may choose different goals, their pragmatic morality will vary accordingly. Therefore, pragmatism can not define universal truth.

The foundation of Christian morality is God's unconditional love. I believe that this is the most important difference between Christianity and Islam. During a religious discussion with Muslims, I did an analysis of the Bible, to discover where this principle is presented. I was amazed when I discovered that God's unconditional love is discussed much more frequently in the Old Testament than in the New Testament.

In my comparison of the holy books, I then did an analysis of the Koran, and found that every instance when Mohammad discussed Allah's love, it is always predicated on prior human behavior which pleases God. There were an equal number of passages which described people who Allah doesn't love. Among the multitude of people whom Allah doesn't love are unbelievers. Obviously, if Allah does not love unbelievers, it is impossible for people who have submitted themselves completely to Allah to love unbelievers. If Muslims did love unbelievers, they would be acting contrary to Allah's stated opinion about unbelievers.

The choice before us is this, which system of morality do we choose. Do we accept the Christian God who loves us unconditionally, so do we believe Mohammad’s Allah?

Dennis

Andrew P. said...

I understand the OT stories today because they read the same. I don’t have to live in the Bronze Age to understand the meaning of what is being said. And it’s not about who understands it better, either. It says what it says; and it’s easy to understand.

The Nazi examples still miss the point. The Nazis were trying to create a better race, and mentally retarded Germans were not conducive to doing so.
Fairness and compassion is everyone’s standard; not just mine. That’s why just about everyone in the world would agree with me that rape is wrong. True, some people only include those within their own perceived group, but they are mistaken in doing so.

That large section you wrote about atheism and materialism is largely irrelevant. From my understanding, atheism is merely rejecting a particular dogma. I imagine that you are an atheist in respect to Poseidon.

All we need in order to reject Christianity is to have good reasons to reject the Gospels. And as we have it, there are very good reasons to reject the Gospels.

Most apologists will spend a lot of time and energy on semantics, doing a sort of mental gymnastics, in order to justify their continued belief in Christianity. Unfortunately, the reasons not to believe are fairly plain and easy to understand. I think the author Sam Harris said it best, so I will paraphrase him.

The Gospels were written 2,000 years ago in the prescientific religious context of the late Roman Empire. The first gospel chronologically is Mark. Mark was written 30 to 40 years after Jesus allegedly walked the Earth. We don't have any of the original manuscripts, all we have are copies of copies written in ancient Greek. This means that not only did someone (the authors of the Gospels were anonymous) translate Jesus words, but we have no mediating document to settle the thousands of copying and editing errors that appear when comparing the copies we do have. Furthermore, while we have 27 books in the New Testament, for the first 300 years of Christianity's existence, Christians were guided by 50 books. It wasn't until the Catholic Church started meeting on the subject that it designated the books we have now.

Now, most Christians think there's something particularly different about the Christian storyline. Unfortunately, it parallels the stories of multitudes of gods and avatars throughout time. Even today, there are miracle stories being reported by people all over the world. A good example is Satya Sai Baba. His followers attribute all the miracles of Jesus to him: he healed the sick, made the blind see, rose people from the dead, was born of a virgin, etc. As Sam Harris said, "We have thousands upon thousands of living eye witnesses who think Satya Sai Baba is a living god, and he doesn't even get an hour on cable television; but you put the SAME miracle stories in a 2,000 year old book, and suddenly half the people on the planet think it's a legitimate project to organize their life around."

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
"The Nazi examples still miss the point. The Nazis were trying to create a better race, and mentally retarded Germans were not conducive to doing so.
Fairness and compassion is everyone’s standard; not just mine...."

I have not missed the point. The Nazi example was spot on. The Nazis were neither "fair" nor "compassionate" towards the mentally retarded Germans, etc. When someone makes a general rule like you have, it takes only one counter example to disprove it. As I'm sure you well know, I can offer a multitude of counter examples. The fact that they had reasons to be unfair and uncompassionate is a red herring. Everyone, including murders like Charles Manson, have reasons for their behavior. So what?

Your argument would be more accurate if you restated it thus, "people are hardwired so that they are able to show fairness and compassion". People are also hardwired with the ability to be cruel and unfair to those closest to them.

Even if you were correct, that people are hardwired to be “fair and compassionate” to their own tribe, you would still have failed to provide a logical basis to guide us to a universal set of moral principles.

Andrew said:
"I understand the OT stories today because they read the same. I don’t have to live in the Bronze Age to understand the meaning of what is being said. And it’s not about who understands it better, either. It says what it says; and it’s easy to understand."

You have either accused Jesus of lying about the meaning of the Old Testament, or you have claimed that you have a better understanding of the Jewish culture than what people who actually lived in the culture. Since Jesus made the statement during a debate, and since his debate partner agreed with him, I reject your argument that Jesus was lying. That leaves the second alternative, that you believe you have a better understanding of Jewish culture than Jesus did. If so, then why did you deny your own argument when you said, "And it’s not about who understands it better, either"?

Andrew said:
"That large section you wrote about atheism and materialism is largely irrelevant. From my understanding, atheism is merely rejecting a particular dogma... I imagine that you are an atheist in respect to Poseidon."

If the discussion about the existence of God is irrelevant, why did you bring it up in the first place? It doesn't appear that you are serious.

From the beginning of our discussion, I have tried to get you to explain the intellectual basis of the positions that you take. You make sweeping claims about the legitimacy of the moral teachings in the Bible, without offering any rational basis to support those judgments. You have the right to your own opinions, but your opinions hardly stand for a logical foundation for a reasoned discussion. As a philosopher, you know the difference between an opinion and a well reasoned argument.

If you are making your claims from the standpoint of a materialist, then the discussion about materialism is completely relevant. I’m curious why you wish to avoid that discussion? If you are not a materialist, then what system to you use to organize reality? Are you arguing as a theist; if so why did you ask me for evidence for God's existence in the first place? If you have no viewpoint, then how do you propose to evaluate the divine revelation of God?

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:

"All we need in order to reject Christianity is to have good reasons to reject the Gospels...
Most apologists will spend a lot of time and energy on semantics, doing a sort of mental gymnastics, in order to justify their continued belief in Christianity. ..."

A snarky answer is always effective against those who are persuaded by emotional arguments.

Andrew said:
"I think the author Sam Harris said it best, so I will paraphrase him.

"The Gospels were written 2,000 years ago in the prescientific religious context of the late Roman Empire. The first gospel chronologically is Mark. Mark was written 30 to 40 years after Jesus allegedly walked the Earth."

Jesus "allegedly" walked the Earth"? You are already off base here.

Andrew said:
"We don't have any of the original manuscripts, all we have are copies of copies written in ancient Greek. This means that not only did someone (the authors of the Gospels were anonymous) translate Jesus words, but we have no mediating document to settle the thousands of copying and editing errors that appear when comparing the copies we do have."

The New Testament is one of the best attested documents in ancient history. The reason there are thousands of copying errors is because we have thousands of copies of the Gospels. If each of the thousands of copies has only one error, that adds up to thousands of errors. Those few errors do not in any way affect our ability to understand the majority of the New Testament. The New Testament is one of the best attested documents in ancient history.

Andrew said:
"Furthermore, while we have 27 books in the New Testament, for the first 300 years of Christianity's existence, Christians were guided by 50 books. It wasn't until the Catholic Church started meeting on the subject that it designated the books we have now."

I question your “facts. Are you able to support those claims from authoritative sources? Does it matter if your facts are correct or not, if your argument is effective towards the uninformed?

Andrew said:
"Now, most Christians think there's something particularly different about the Christian storyline. Unfortunately, it parallels the stories of multitudes of gods and avatars throughout time. Even today, there are miracle stories being reported by people all over the world. A good example is Satya Sai Baba. His followers attribute all the miracles of Jesus to him: he healed the sick, made the blind see, rose people from the dead, was born of a virgin, etc. As Sam Harris said, "We have thousands upon thousands of living eye witnesses who think Satya Sai Baba is a living god,....""

The existance of Satya Sai Baba is irrelevant to Christians belief in Jesus. Christians have never claimed that Jesus is the only miracle worker.
Matt 7:15-20
15 "Watch out for false prophets . They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
NIV

Here is the evidence who Christians should reject Satya Sai Baba’s claims"
http://robertpriddy.wordpress.com/

Dennis

Anonymous said...

Summary Part 1

It is popular, in many corners of academia, to attack Christianity from every possible angle. Unfortunately, this exercise is very destructive unless the attackers are prepared to replace Judeo-Christian morality with something which is comparable. By now, it appears that Andrew is among that group. This approach is very destructive. About 100 million people have been murdered by intellectuals who have rejected Judeo-Christian morality without a suitable alternative moral system.

The foundation for the Judeo-Christian moral system is a single moral God, who cares how we treat each other. Without God, there is no foundation upon which to build universal moral principles. Perhaps, Buddhism, is an exception, since its morality approaches Judeo-Christian ethics the closest. Buddhism, does not formally depend upon God for its authority, but it is founded on the teachings of one individual, Buddha, who is somewhat analogous to the one God in Christian thought. Like the Christian God, Buddha’s morality depends on his own moral authority. Here is how Jesus, addresses the issue:
Mark 12:28-33
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"
29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."
32 "Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."
NIV
My challenge to Andrew, or to any other anti-Christian skeptic, is to come up with a better basis for morality than what the Bible and Jesus has given us. So far, Andrew, you have not come up with anything which I find convincing.

Dennis

Anonymous said...

Summary Part 2

Most Christians, including myself, do not view the laws of Moses as the final word in morality. Each Christian community will explain their views in their own way, (i.e. Dispensationalism), but they all arrive at the same conclusion, that the laws of Moses are not a complete and infallible moral guide for modern man. I personally prefer the term “progressive revelation” to define my own approach to scripture. According to progressive revelation, God took the Israelites where they were, in their original culture, blessed it, and then gradually, through a series of separate revelations over thousands of years, let them into a fuller understanding of his perfect will. Every portion of the Bible is equally inspired, since every portion describes God’s actions in history. Because of progressive revelation, later portions of the inspired Bible more accurately represent God’s perfect will.

Because Christians don’t live under the Torah, they are usually not very interested in explaining the Torah in its own terms. When they are challenged, they often stumble badly. I believe that the first step, to understand the laws of Moses, is to recognize that Moses' contemporaries understood his laws, even if his laws don't make sense in our culture. While the literal details of his laws, are inapplicable today, the principles upon which those individual laws were derived, are still true. These principles form the basis of modern Western morality. The next step, is to acknowledge the value of the Jewish people, who are part of the ancient tradition, which is based on the Torah. The Jewish people understand the written Torah through the Oral Torah. The Old Testament exegete, might choose to ignore the Oral Torah, but if so, he (she) must explain why he has decided to reject the Oral Torah. It appears arrogant, when people base their exegesis on a casual reading of the written Torah, and causally dismiss the results of thousands of years of exegesis by people who have lived the Torah.

When I read your plans for your website, it opens exciting possibilities. That’s what attracted me to your site. Since you have decided to reevaluate your beliefs, you have the opportunity to dig deep, and to bring out the deeper meanings in the Torah. How you proceed is not my business. Whatever direction you choose, I wish you luck.

Dennis

Andrew P. said...

Part 1 Response

Dennis wrote, “By now, it appears that Andrew is among that group.”

Who are you talking to?

“I have not missed the point. The Nazi example was spot on.”

Yes, you’ve definitely missed the point. All I’ve said is that people only treat fairly those whom they think are part of their group, but set boundaries on whom can not be treated with fairness and compassion. Any individual Nazis who killed retarded Germans obviously did not see these people as part of their group. They saw them as a sort of poison to their group. In their case, their “group” was “genetically perfect Aryans”. Ask yourself, Dennis, if your morality was guided by the belief that only genetically perfect Aryans were part of your group, would you include genetically imperfect Aryans? I can answer that question for you. Of course not.

Dennis said, “If the discussion about the existence of God is irrelevant, why did you bring it up in the first place? It doesn't appear that you are serious.”

Again, you are dodging. I said that the only thing that is relevant to this argument is whether Yahweh is real; not whether deism is.

Dennis said, “Here is the evidence who Christians should reject Satya Sai Baba’s claims"
http://robertpriddy.wordpress.com/”

I’m not saying I believe in Satya Sai Baba. I’m saying that while we both reject Satya Sai Baba for good reason; we have MORE reason to reject Jesus’s miracles, given that these miracles are written about 2000 years ago in the prescientific religious context of the late Roman Empire, of which we only have copies of copies of copies, and.

Dennis said, “When someone makes a general rule like you have, it takes only one counter example to disprove it.”

Then give one.

I can think of something better I suppose, but they all involve delusional thinking. There is an account of ancient Celts in Brittania, for example, who would ritually sacrifice a perfectly fine warrior, of noble blood in fact, to one of their gods to request assistance in fighting the Romans. The sacrificed prince was obviously one of the tribe, right? But in all instances that immoral behaviors occur, it is usually in the service of some delusional idea – like thinking that Woden will help the Celts defeat a Roman legion. It’s the same with the Nazis. If your Nazi example is true, then it’s in the service of the bogus Nazi idea of excluding genetically perfect Aryans from their perfect society. The same with communism – it’s in the service of a bogus system of economics. It’s the same with the stories of Abraham – he was going to kill his own son in the bogus delusion that Yahweh wanted him to. Or Lot giving his daughters to a mob so they can be raped. Or Jesus attacking a fig tree because it didn’t have fruit for him. Or Ted Bundy for killing and then raping women. People do immoral things because of delusional thinking.

Andrew P. said...

Part 2 Response

Dennis said, “If you have no viewpoint, then how do you propose to evaluate the divine revelation of God?”

By not being dogmatic about it.

Dennis said, “Unfortunately, this exercise is very destructive unless the attackers are prepared to replace Judeo-Christian morality with something which is comparable.”

This is just false. Whatever Judeo-Christian morality is, it’s been replaced by thousands of years of dialogue. We’re already living in an era of a different morality, and it’s still changing. All I’m asking is to stop trying to say we still use a Judeo-Christian morality.

You said it takes only one counter example to disprove a general principle. Your principle seems to be that we follow Judeo-Christian principles as morality.

Jesus’s morality is different, it was very Buddha-like, at least half of the time. The other half he was somewhat barbaric. When he was talking (and not Paul interpreting), he said things like when people try to rob you, give them everything you have, including the shirt off your back; or that we shouldn’t argue; or when struck we should turn the other cheek; or that we should keep the OT laws; or we should sell or give away EVERYTHING we have to the poor.

How many people in western society follow this? While I think these are admirable, they are no different then what a Buddhist monk would do, or some Hindu ascetic. These types of moral principles sound like something a mystic would say.

But then Jesus has another side, where he is oblivious to why slavery is wrong or why a fig tree might not be able to bear fruit.

All I’m saying is that western society doesn’t follow Judeo-Christian morality anymore. Even though a lot of westerners say they do; they clearly do not.