Imagine no Christianity?

I find it amusing whenever atheists gleefully discuss “what would the world be like if there were no religion?” In a way, I’m sympathetic to this sentiment. In fact, I wrote about this early on in my blogging adventures here. But, as I’ve said before, following Jesus is not a religion. 

What’s ironic about this dialogue, as far as Christianity is concerned, is that they imagine doing away with the very paradigm they borrow from when they envision a world filled with peace, love, and compassion. This fantasy is based on a popular atheist caricature of history. And popular anti-Christian evangelists trade on the fact that most of their followers are, likewise, woefully ignorant of Christian history.

Of course, it’s vacuously true that Christian history includes wars, violence, and many evils done by people thinking they were serving Christ. But anyone with a rudimentary understanding should take these examples as being in direct contradiction to Christ’s teachings, not representing them. And by omitting the benefits we take for granted in our culture that uniquely came to us through Christian ideals, any thinking person should view such a myopic treatment of history as suspect.

On that note, if you’re interested in a brilliant rebuttal to this popular atheist notion, I would highly recommend a book by David Bentley Hart titled, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies. I will quote rather copiously from it here in order to give you a good sampling of how Hart thoroughly dismantles these poorly constructed anti-Christian myths:

Many of today’s most obstreperous critics of Christianity know nothing more of Christendom’s two millennia than a few childish images of bloodthirsty crusaders and sadistic inquisitors, a few damning facts, and a great number of even more damning legends…. (p.17)

Hart is especially critical of the icons of New Atheism—Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, and Harris. For instance, Sam Harris’s sanctimonious dismissal of Christianity’s historical impact:

He more or less explicitly states that every episode of violence or injustice in Christian history is a natural consequence of Christianity’s basic tenets (which is obviously false), and that Christianity’s twenty centuries of unprecedented and still unmatched moral triumphs—its care of widows and orphans, its almshouses, hospitals, foundling homes, schools, shelters, relief organizations, soup kitchens, medical missions, charitable aid societies, and so on—are simply expressions of normal human kindness, with no necessary connection to Christian conviction (which is even more obviously false). (p.9 *)

Then Hart challenges the coherence of these pundit’s arguments: that the world would be more peaceful once religion is finally purged from civilization:

What I find most mystifying in the arguments of the authors I have mentioned, and of others like them, is the strange presupposition that a truly secular society would of its nature be more tolerant and less prone to violence than any society shaped by any form of faith. Given that the modern age of secular governance has been the most savagely and sublimely violent period in human history, by a factor (or body count) of incalculable magnitude, it is hard to identify the grounds for their confidence.

It is not even especially clear why these authors imagine that a world entirely purged of faith would choose to be guided by moral prejudices remotely similar to their own; and the obscurity becomes especially impenetrable to me in the case of those who seem to believe that a thoroughgoing materialism informed by Darwinian biology might actually aid us in forsaking our “tribalism” and “irrationality” and in choosing instead to live in tolerant concord with one another. (p. 14 *)

Interestingly, Hart laments over what he calls shoddy, vapid, and philosophically sloppy writings of these modern atheists compared to that of 19th century atheism, particularly Nietzsche:

The greatest of them all, Friedrich Nietzsche, may have had a somewhat limited understanding of the history of Christian thought, but he was nevertheless a man of immense culture who could appreciate the magnitude of the thing against which he had turned his spirit, and who had enough of a sense of the past to understand the cultural crisis that the fading of Christian faith would bring about. Moreover, he had the good manners to despise Christianity, in large part, for what it actually was—above all, for its devotion to an ethics of compassion—than allow himself the soothing, self-righteous fantasy that Christianity’s history had been nothing but an indeterminable pageant of violence, tyranny, and sexual neurosis.

He may have hated many Christians for their hypocrisy, but he hated Christianity itself principally on account of its enfeebling solicitude for the weak, the outcast, the infirm, and the diseased; and, because he was conscious of the historical contingency of all cultural values, he never deluded himself that humanity could do away with Christian faith while simply retaining Christian morality in some diluted form, such as liberal social conscience or innate human sympathy. (p. 5-6 *)

Hart explains how Christianity brought a depth of human compassion and other-centered, self-giving love that was virtually unknown to the world before.

It is also probably wise to recall that the Christians of the early centuries won renown principally for their sobriety, peacefulness, generosity, loyalty to their spouses, care for the poor and the sick, and ability, no matter what their social station, to exhibit virtues—self-restraint, chastity, forbearance, courage—that pagan philosophers frequently extolled but rarely practiced with comparable fidelity.

And these Christians brought something new into the ancient world: a vision of the good without precedent in pagan society, a creed that prescribed charitable service to others as a religious obligation, a story about a God of self-outpouring love.
In long retrospect, the wonder of this new nation within the empire is not that so many of its citizens could not really live by the ideals of their faith, nor even simply that so many could, but that anyone could even have imagined such ideals in the first place. ( p.45 *)

If you would like to hear lectures by Hart of these arguments (audio only), I highly recommend “Christianity and its Fashionable Enemies” and also “Myths about Christian History.” These are excellent. Here’s a short clip along the same subject lines.

* All emphasis added.
Advertisements

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 37 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
This entry was posted in Christian apologetics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

151 Responses to Imagine no Christianity?

  1. Scottie says:

    Hello Mel. First Jesus is a religious figure whose story is told in a religious holy book, so by definition following Jesus is a religion. Any way to negate that is simply to change the meaning of words to make them meaningless.

    By your second paragraph I interpret it as you saying that ” peace, love, and compassion” could only have come from the christianity of the time and later. That view is very egotistical as stated. History prior to that time has stories of acts of those things, and rules / laws enacted for people to live by to promote the common good also work to promote ” peace, love, and compassion”.

    If I am misunderstanding your post , please let me know. I will try to get back here later today. Hugs

    • Mel Wild says:

      Hi Scottie. Let me reply briefly as I’m headed out the door. If you need further clarification, I can do that later.

      First, it may be hard for me to explain the difference between religion and following Christ to you.In its strictest sense, has to do with rituals and practices. The Latin compound word comes from re-ligare, “to bind again.” Conversely, following Jesus is entering into His life, by faith, which is better defined as a relationship in intimate participation of the divine nature. There certainly have been Christian practices and liturgies created by churches and denominations that can be called religion, but that’s not the heart of the Gospel. None of those things have anything to do with following Jesus. I can explain further when I have more time. I did do a series on this titled, “Leaving Religion to Follow Christ” if you’re interested.

      What Hart is talking about with regard to what Christianity uniquely brought to civilization was what I would call “other-centered, self-giving love.” It’s loving your enemy, as Jesus would say. It’s not egotistical, it’s a historical fact. While Judaism had this type of care codified in their law, they only practiced it within their tribes, certainly not their enemies, as Christ taught. The type of care and compassion demonstrated by the early church, even to those who were persecuting them, was virtually unprecedented in civilization. Philosophers liked to talk about such things but it was never practiced. Hart goes into great length on the historical details in his books.

      Let me know if you need further explanation. Hugs back to you. 🙂

      • Scottie says:

        Hello Mel, thanks for the quick reply it was nice you found time before leaving . I basically had the same situation, dropped my comment and left to do errands.

        Maybe I am being pedantic, and getting caught up on the words, but I feel words mean something as that is how we communicate with each other. I googled “what are followers of …”called and added different ways the Jesus of the bible is called. I got basically disciples / apostles and Christians.

        Two web sites listed the early names , seems there were three on one site and four on the other. They were , Christians, Sect of the Nazarenes, Followers of the Way, and one website added sheep. I have a hard time believing ancient tribes and religious leaders called themselves sheep, but I can’t argue it with any authority. I admit I am not a historian, Professor Taboo or Ark could but I don’t have their education on the subject.
        The two sites I read are :
        https://carm.org/early-christians-called
        https://biblethingsinbibleways.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/sect-of-the-way-the-nazarenes-christians-names-given-to-the-early-church/
        blockquote> As followers of Christ, we are known as Christians around the world
        This is the first line on one of the blogs I listed ( have to give sources now as people get upset if they think you are making it all up. And some do, but I try to only say what I have an idea is correct. ) So I think it confusing if you follow Jesus the Christ ( meaning teacher I was taught ) and claim not to be a christian. It is almost like denying Jesus publicly isn’t it? I guess you have the right to call yourself anything you wish, so I will move a bit on.

        If you are a christian even if you don’t follow any named religious organization it would still be a religion by your view of involving certain practices and rituals. You have beliefs and doctrines, those in turn are practices and some can serve as rituals. But you do belong to a named organized faith group , and it is a religion. You in fact are the pastor of a church which is part of a religion of followers of Jesus the Christ making you a christian. So it all comes back to I just can’t see how you can say “…following Jesus is not a religion”

        As for the whole “…other-centered, self-giving love.” I think we as a species would have developed this long before just 2018 years ago. I have heard other people mention societies in the time before the christian church and they must have had this idea. To say no one had self sacrificing love for others is like saying that no one knew not to kill each other until god delivered it on stone tables. As long as there were humans and before we even evolved into this present form, we knew enough to care for each other selflessly.

        OK, I know others have more pressing topics to address your post, those were just my thoughts. Be well. Hugs

        • Mel Wild says:

          Okay, Scottie. Finally got home and got a chance to look at your comments here. A couple replies to your questions….

          I have a hard time believing ancient tribes and religious leaders called themselves sheep…

          “Sheep” is an agricultural metaphor, not to be taken literally. Jesus referred to himself as the “Good Shepherd,” speaking pastorally, like a shepherd watching over and caring for his flock. He would often use contemporary settings to make a point through stories and analogies. I’m sure he would use a different illustration in our modern culture. This particular illustration comes from John chapter 10, and what we’re to take from it is that his sheep hear his voice and will follow him. I actually learned this about sheep firsthand when I was in Israel. I saw Bedouin shepherds come together at a water tank (provided by the government) and all the sheep from the two herds would mix together. But as soon as the shepherds left they would just whistle and all the sheep would break up and follow their shepherd. It was amazing to watch.

          So I think it confusing if you follow Jesus the Christ ( meaning teacher I was taught ) and claim not to be a christian. It is almost like denying Jesus publicly isn’t it?

          I never claimed not to be a Christian. My point is that “Christian” is a loaded word with lots of baggage. It’s almost a meaningless term. And Jesus didn’t call us Christians anyway (it was a derogatory term given to them later in Antioch), so certainly claiming to follow Jesus is not denying him. I’m trying to make a distinction between the religious practice called “Christianity,” that can mean a lot of different things, and having a relationship with Jesus.

          As for the whole “…other-centered, self-giving love.” I think we as a species would have developed this long before just 2018 years ago.

          Well, the point is, we hadn’t. It hadn’t even entered into people’s minds to think the way Jesus taught. People would certainly care for their family and friends, even a stranger in need, but not for their enemies. If you’re familiar with the French philosopher, Rene Girard, he gives an interesting history of how mankind used scapegoating to bring tribal peace (that’s another long subject!). Jesus exposed this for what it was. This, and for many other reasons, are why people were so astounded by Jesus’s teachings and parables. He took common cultural stories and stood them on their head, often reversing the outcome of the story in terms of showing scandalous grace.

          As long as there were humans and before we even evolved into this present form, we knew enough to care for each other selflessly.

          Again, sorry but that’s just not the case. We are projecting our modern view into an ancient world that was quite different when we think this. Yes, people would sometimes sacrifice selflessly for their loved ones, family, tribe, but not for their enemies. And there were no hospitals, orphanages, soup kitchens, leper hospitals, etc., before Christianity. Marginalized people would just be out of luck. But this is only the surface-level of what I’m talking about. The revolutionary paradigm shift Jesus brought goes goes much deeper than just helping others out. I don’t think we realize how deeply embedded these values are in our culture today that would’ve been totally foreign to the ancient world.

        • Scottie says:

          Hello Mel. Thanks again for responding. You said:

          And there were no hospitals, orphanages, soup kitchens, leper hospitals, etc., before Christianity.

          I am sorry but a quick google search show this wrong. this web site https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_hospitals shows

          Institutions created specifically to care for the ill also appeared early in India. Fa Xian, a Chinese Buddhist monk who travelled across India ca. 400 CE,

          and also they state that in

          ancient Greece, temples dedicated to the healer-god Asclepius, known as Asclepieia (Ancient Greek: Ἀσκληπιεῖα, sing. Asclepieion, Ἀσκληπιεῖον), functioned as centres of medical advice, prognosis, and healing.[1] At these shrines, patients would enter a dream-like state of induced sleep known as enkoimesis (ἐγκοίμησις) not unlike anesthesia, in which they either received guidance from the deity in a dream or were cured by surgery.[2] Asclepeia provided carefully controlled spaces conducive to healing and fulfilled several of the requirements of institutions created for healing.[3] In the Asclepieion of Epidaurus, three large marble boards dated to 350 BCE preserve the names, case histories, complaints, and cures of about 70 patients who came to the temple with a problem and shed it there

          On soup kitchens and feeding the poor I also found that goes back to before Christ.
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soup_kitchen
          ,blockquote> She also said that as far back as Ancient Egypt, it was believed that people needed to show they had helped the hungry in order to justify themselves in the afterlife.

          As you can see those things you mentioned were not only thought of but put into practice before Jesus walked on the earth. I simply can not see how you can make a blanket claim about the lack of an emotion and then claim the start of that emotion was only started 2000 years ago. Others could have and must have promoted these ideas before Christ. It is simply for the wellbeing of the species.

          Ok this will go to moderation for the links. However I wish you the best fo the rest of the week. Hugs

        • Mel Wild says:

          Hi Scottie. You’re right about the origins of hospitals. I misspoke when I said there were no hospitals before Christianity, and, really, that was not my point anyway. So, thanks for the correction. 🙂

          I guess the point I’m trying to make is that the other-centered, self-giving love that Christ taught was really not practiced in the pagan world as a whole before Christianity. There were exceptions, of course, but these, too, were often religiously motivated, not secular.

          For instance, Roman emperor, Julian (the Apostate), who was all too conscious of the hypocrisies of which Christians were often capable, was forced to lament, in a letter to a pagan priest, “It is a disgrace that these impious Galileans care not only for their own poor but for ours as well.”(Julian, Epistle 22)

          Julian’s comment illustrate the difference I’m talking about. Even the Jews were commanded to take care of the orphan, widow, and stranger in their law, but it pretty much equated to taking care of their own. But Jesus told them that their “neighbor” even includes their enemies. The Christian paradigm made it universal and unconditional.

          As the churches spread throughout Europe, they would set up hospitals in just about every city (where there was a need), including establishing free leper hospitals and hospitals for those ravaged by the plague during a time when people were deathly afraid to even touch them. The Benedictines alone were responsible for over 2,000 hospitals in Western Europe. They also set up medical training centers, etc. Orphanages and other types of care for the poor were also prominent under Christian influence. I could go on in many other areas we take for granted today, but the point is, the Christian paradigm had a huge impact on how we view care and compassion and social justice today.

          My other point here is a negative one. One cannot logically make an argument for this kind of care under a Neo-Darwinist view of unguided, purposeless, natural selection. You must borrow this altruistic paradigm from other sources, which were mainly religious in nature. And I believe the greatest of these was the paradigm that Jesus gave us.

        • Nan says:

          Mel, this may not be what you meant via your comment to Scottie, but puleeze. There were, are, and will be people that possess ” other-centered, self-giving love ” WITHOUT relying on a “God” or a “Jesus.” Further, to make the claim that such feelings were/are “often religiously motivated” is nothing by religious bias.

          And, to take it one step further, there are untold numbers of Christians that demonstrate little to NO indication of “other-centered, self-giving love.” And don’t spin your tale that it’s because they aren’t leading the “Christ-centered” life as defined by you. You cannot in good faith make that claim because you’re not their judge. More accurately, it’s simply human nature that some are more giving, more loving, more aware of human needs than others … with or without the label of Christian.

        • Mel Wild says:

          There were, are, and will be people that possess ” other-centered, self-giving love ” WITHOUT relying on a “God” or a “Jesus.” Further, to make the claim that such feelings were/are “often religiously motivated” is nothing by religious bias.

          Now, you are making faith statement. By what logic, or even historical evidence, do you make this claim, Nan? You certainly cannot make it from the Neo-Darwinist model. How would this other-centered, self-giving love come from our biology, which is based on unguided, pitiless, and purposeless natural selection? Where did this “human nature” for good come from? Sorry, but yours is naïve modern naturalist bias.

          And, to take it one step further, there are untold numbers of Christians that demonstrate little to NO indication of “other-centered, self-giving love.”

          Of course, I agree that there are many who call themselves Christians who aren’t showing evidence of following Christ. But, the point is, that doesn’t say anything about the Christian worldview. They are behaving badly in direct contradiction to Jesus’ teachings, not because of them.

          And don’t spin your tale that it’s because they aren’t leading the “Christ-centered” life as defined by you.

          Spin my tale? Excuse me but this is insulting and utter nonsense! Defined by me? How so? I do no such thing. Jesus’ teachings are very clear on this, Nan. Christ told us following Him means doing what He says…loving other as He loves us, loving our enemies, not seeking revenge, giving more than your asked, not being greedy, taking care of the least of these as if they were Him, doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. I am not spinning anything here.

          And besides, many “Christians” in the world, both historically and today, are following Christ (imperfectly. of course), either privately or in public ministry, doing good things, contributing positively to the world, showing the compassion of Christ, etc. I personally have ministry friends in parts of the world who’ve given up everything, who put their lives in danger every day so that people can be clothed and fed, helped, set free from warlords, human trafficking, and other unspeakable human suffering. You are just erecting a straw man here, using poor examples to tear down Christianity itself. Again, I’m sorry, but this is a totally fallacious argument.

        • Nan says:

          You call it “naïve modern naturalist bias” when a human being offers “other-centered, self-giving love”??!!? Are you that shallow in your thinking? Must every person that doesn’t believe in/follow your Jesus be someone who is “unguided, pitiless, and purposeless?”

          Oh my, Mel. I’m aghast.

          Also, let me clarify something — you have pointed out several times on your blog (and again in this last comment) that there are those who behave badly “in direct contradiction to Jesus’ teachings, not because of them.” You may not feel you’re making a distinction that some Christians are more “Christ-centered” than others, but it certainly comes across that way.

          Regardless … the whole point of my comment was this: just because a person tags on to her/himself the label of Christian does not mean they have any more “other-centered, self-giving love” than someone who happens to have, as you define it, a “modern naturalist bias.”

          We are all human beings. Some good. Some bad. Some happen to believe in supernatural entities. Others don’t. But NONE of this has any bearing on the capability of a person offering “other-centered, self-giving love.” To qualify such actions as only being present in a person that “follows Christ” is biased, unfair, and just plain wrong.

        • Mel Wild says:

          You call it “naïve modern naturalist bias” when a human being offers “other-centered, self-giving love”??!!? Are you that shallow in your thinking?

          No, Nan, quite the opposite. I’m trying to get you to see your own bias, and I’m pointing to reality, not wishful thinking. I’m saying it’s naïve to think people will just get along on the planet, in peace and love and harmony, just because it’s the right thing to do. What evidence do you have for this assertion? Certainly, not anything in our history! Furthermore, I’m not saying that people cannot show this kind of love, but that it cannot be demonstrated that it comes from our biology or natural selection. You simply cannot make that case. You are trying to discount why this kind of love is so deeply embedded in our culture (at least, in my view).

          Regardless … the whole point of my comment was this: just because a person tags on to her/himself the label of Christian does not mean they have any more “other-centered, self-giving love”

          And I totally agree with that point. And I agree that human nature is the issue, both good and bad. But (to me anyway) it has not been proven that you can connect other-centered, self-giving love to natural evolutionary process. You just don’t have a logical argument for that assertion. So that is an opinion, a faith statement, at best. On the other hand, my argument (whether right or wrong) is logically based on what Jesus actually taught, not on my opinion or wishful thinking. Of course, the Christian viewpoint also tells us why humans do it so poorly.

        • Nan says:

          I’m trying to get you to see your own bias, and I’m pointing to reality, not wishful thinking. I’m saying it’s naïve to think people will just get along on the planet, in peace and love and harmony, just because it’s the right thing to do.

          I’m biased, but you’re not. Is that what you’re trying to say, Mel?

          Sorry, but I will never concede to your perspective that only “Jesus-lovers” have empathy, love, concern, benevolence, etc. for other humans.

          Further, your assertion that “it cannot be demonstrated that it comes from our biology or natural selection” discounts the emotions and concern for others that (had to) exist among the thousands of tribes and primitive peoples that lived on this earth far in advance of the arrival of Jesus.

        • Mel Wild says:

          I’m biased, but you’re not. Is that what you’re trying to say, Mel?

          Where did I say that? Of course I’m biased. It’s naïve to think one is not biased. But my argument is one of logic, not my bias.

          Further, your assertion that “it cannot be demonstrated that it comes from our biology or natural selection” discounts the emotions and concern for others that (had to) exist among the thousands of tribes and primitive peoples that lived on this earth far in advance of the arrival of Jesus.

          So, you have proof for a causal link that other-centered, self-giving love is a result of purely biological evolution? I would love to see it. And, besides, your argument is logically self-refuting. If ancient tribes demonstrated altruistic behavior like Jesus taught and lived, then it cannot have evolved. So, if not from natural evolutionary process, where did it come from?

        • Nan says:

          Mel, I know all about the “love” of Jesus because I was in and amongst the indoctrination for several years. But I will continue to contend that love itself is a naturally occurring emotion. And I’m sure that as long as you believe in a god, you will argue that it comes only through spiritual revelation. But that’s OK. We can agree to disagree,

          Those of us who prefer the naturalistic approach to life (in all ways) will probably never be able to offer any more “proof” than you can related to life and its myriad and complex elements. So probably the best thing to do is to live and let live … and perhaps to occasionally “discuss” our differences. 🙂

        • John Branyan says:

          People don’t have to believe in Jesus to be able to love.
          People don’t have to believe in Jesus to be kind, compassionate, thoughtful, caring human beings.

          But it is your contention that people must have love occur naturally within them in order to be able to love.
          Likewise, people will not be kind, compassionate, thoughtful or caring unless those emotions arise naturally.
          That means selfishness, hate and narcissism occur naturally as well.
          So people can’t be held responsible for their emotions.
          Think about that next time you write about the awfulness of Donald Trump.

        • Nan says:

          Huh?? Your comment makes no sense.

        • John Branyan says:

          People don’t have to believe in Jesus to be able to love.
          I thought you said that first…

        • Scottie says:

          @ John you know far better than this:

          So people can’t be held responsible for their emotions.

          It is a disservice you to say something like this. You know better. Of Course people in a civil society can be held accountable for their actions. If they let their emotions lead them to actions, they are responsible. Again this is more bait and switch. Is this really what he cream of the crop religious people are about? How disappointing for me. I knew religious people that almost starved to death to hold up their faith. This is crap reasoning compared to that.
          Disappointed and sad hugs

        • John Branyan says:

          Sorry you’re disappointed but the logic doesn’t change because you’re sad.

          If our emotions are evolved from our “big brains” (I believe that’s what you told me), then we don’t have any direct control over them. Evolution decides whether we will be lovers or haters. I don’t know why you find this unacceptable. This is science, not superstitious religion!

        • Scottie says:

          John this really is simple. We do have control over our emotions because of our big brains. Can you not see the progression or do you not want to see it? Hugs

        • John Branyan says:

          We absolutely do not have control over our emotions. Can you will yourself to not be disappointed by my last comment? Can you decide to fall in love with Donald Trump? Can you be happy falling down a flight of stairs?

          Can you not see the problem or do you not want to see it?

        • Scottie says:

          I can control my response to stimuli. Your claim we do not have control of our emotions is silly John. Otherwise we would have far more murders and problems than we do in this world. Reason does sometimes over rule emotions. Are you telling me you do not have control over your emotions? Are you not reasonable? John you want to be mocking but you really need to read what you wrote. It shows you to be less as a christian than the normal non religious person. Hugs

        • John Branyan says:

          “I can control my response to stimuli.”
          NO YOU CAN’T

          Stick your hand into a fire and control your response to pain.

          Quit asking condescending questions about my ability to reason. I’m not saying anything controversial or outrageous.

          We absolutely do not control our emotions or responses to stimuli. That is ridiculous.

        • Scottie says:

          You are dumb if you can not see the response to sticking you hand in fire and the pain evolved causes you to take your hand out of the fire. The first thing that happens if your nervous system causes you to jerk away. Then you don’t do it again. That is a learned response. Look it up , it is the real thing. But I am surprised you don’t know this?

          oh yes you are. The fact you don’t see this is interesting to me.

          OK you do not control your emotions? You do not react to things around you? Do you see how silly this is? Wow. Hugs

        • Scottie says:

          John your response to everything in your life is response to the stimuli of daily living, including your response to the stimuli of my comments. Hugs

        • John Branyan says:

          We have control over our responses to stimuli.
          We do not have control over the stimuli.

          Re-reading your comments I understand your point. We can make decisions about what we DO when we feel certain emotions. No question about that. That is not to say we “control our emotions”. Instead, we “control our response to emotion”. I agree.

          This is where we differ from animals. We do not expect animals to control their responses. We tolerate domesticated animals only so long as they obey our rules. Wild animals are not considered “unloving” because they refuse to live indoors, be housebroken and nuzzle us while we watch television.

        • Mel Wild says:

          But I will continue to contend that love itself is a naturally occurring emotion. And I’m sure that as long as you believe in a god, you will argue that it comes only through spiritual revelation. But that’s OK. We can agree to disagree…

          Fair enough. I have no problem with that. It really is a faith issue in the end, not something we can prove. But consider that even if we can link altruistic behavior to ancient people it doesn’t discount that it comes from God. As Paul said several times, all humankind knows right from wrong and their conscience will either justify them or condemn them. Jesus simply identified it in the human condition and gave us a way to be healed from our damaged condition. Of course, that’s my worldview. 🙂

          So probably the best thing to do is to live and let live … and perhaps to occasionally “discuss” our differences. 🙂

          Of course, I totally agree with you there. In this regard, I’m a Libertarian. I believe all people should have full access to all worldviews in the marketplace of ideas.

        • Scottie says:

          Hello Mel. Thanks for the reply. I was going to forgo replying until I came to the last paragraph. You and I will have to agree to strongly disagree on the issue of where our emotional development came from. For humans to get as far as we have means by necessity we developed intense social bonds and developed the ability to sacrifice one member of the tribe for the others. From there it is simple to see how we can develop the extended emotional bonds to encompass those we meet with needs we can help fulfill.
          It is not hard to see one emperor or rule among the people not wanting to help others, we have that with our current administration here in the US. But notice they are in the minority even now.

          The wellbeing of the entire group requires we care about others as ourselves. I disagree that religion alone is the source of altruism in our species. I have noticed times when even animals not on a human reasoning level have acted selflessly for others, especially humans. These animals did not have religion, they developed their ability to love through contract and integrating into a group society / community over time. Basically they evolved. Humans have evolved not only physically but emotionally as well. I hope we continue to do so.

          Thanks for the conversation. Have a great weekend. Hugs

        • John Branyan says:

          You are correct that animals do not have religion.
          “Altruism” and “selflessness” are religious ideas. Therefore, animals are not capable of either. If you’re going to say animals have developed the ability to “love”, you must also say animals have the ability to “hate”.

          There is no mechanism in evolution that allows for morality to evolve. Morality often goes AGAINST the principle driving force of evolution that the “fittest survive”. Evolution is not about “wellbeing”. Evolution is about survival. When you cast off “religion” you lose altruism too.

        • Scottie says:

          Hello John. DO you have animals in your life? ( other than the human animal ) . If so then you know animals can show all emotions. Love and yes hate. Also animals in contact with humans tend to show even more striking depth of emotions.

          John even if you do not wish to accept it, evolution does account for the development of morality. You misunderstand the meaning of the fittest. That doesn’t mean the strongest nor the most brutal or self centered. Evolution favors those genes / attributes that help an individual pass on their genetic material. The well being of a group does help them pass on their genes. Put simply, people who work together, take care of each other, care for each other have more babies. I won’t break down every way that happens as I am sure you can imagine it. Even if an individual sacrifices themselves for the group, their genetic material is passed on by siblings or offspring. So as you can see evolution is about group well being as the better off the group, the more they can propagate. Have a good one. Hugs

        • John Branyan says:

          You’ll have to show me where you’re getting this, Scottie. In my various readings (and they have been numerous), I have never come across the theory of morality in evolution.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Exactly, John. These are faith-based statements that are logically incoherent. Evolution theory simply cannot deal with morality. It can only answer purely biological questions.

        • John Branyan says:

          Religion is so deeply embedded in people that we take it for granted. We then ascribe our sense of morality to dumb animals. Sorry, but your dog doesn’t “love” you.

        • John Branyan says:

          Reading through Scottie’s supplied links, I noticed a lot of “if” and “perhaps” in the articles. I’m afraid to mention this because I’ll surely be accused of “willful ignorance” or belligerence.

          If morality DID evolve from solely via natural processes, then it isn’t morality at all. It’s just a slightly more evolved “instinct”. We aren’t really doing “right” when we’re kind or merciful. We’re simply doing what nature programmed us to do. Spiders don’t get credit for being “good” when they spin their webs. Your dog doesn’t get credit for “love” when it licks your hand.

        • Mel Wild says:

          There is no causal link between evolutionary process and actual morality or conscience. As you said, John, evolved instincts are not the same thing as morality. These are nothing more than speculations of what could’ve happened. That’s the only honest thing they can say. It’s a faith statement, not one based on scientific methodology.

        • Scottie says:

          Hello Mel. I have a bit more time so thought I would address this lack of understanding. As our biology evolved that included a bigger brain. As our brain evolved it also included many more options than other animals, and yes we are animals. We developed reasoning, we developed languages, we developed the ability to live together, and yes all that development by evolution and that allowed us to reason out our morals. No one needed to tell us not to kill our fellow tribe members because we reasoned that would work against us. It is a progression of steps that work perfectly together. You act as though suddenly people discovered it was against their interest to have moral actions against each other. Yet the leap of how to treat others is where you claim Jesus comes in. Sorry Mel, but it makes no sense we would have gotten to the timeline of your Jesus with out already developing the very things you assign to him.

          I will simply add I do not like the switch and bait of saying love equals morals. Yes animals love John! Every animal I have had in my home has loved, and felt other emotions. That doesn’t mean they have human morals. As a thinking human that is below you in my opinion. I expected more moral high ground from a “christian” than to twist words and exchange their meanings, unless you are willing to renounce the claim to that moral high ground. Morals may be a human invention yet if you ever read Farley Mowat’s book “Never Cry Wolf” you would never doubt the emotions, love, even morals of the wolves in their environment as he studied them. Several times he violated their dens and was not harmed, and even when he was in a state that could have lead to his death, they protected and fed him. A human in the mist of wild wolves alone and they did not harm him and even took care of him. Maybe we have something to learn from other species? Hugs

        • John Branyan says:

          So a dude walks into the wolf den and doesn’t get attacked is proof that animals know how to love.
          But when Roy (from Siegfried & Roy) was almost killed by a trained tiger, that is proof of…what?
          Bears, tigers, sharks, snakes, lions and duck-billed platypus have attacked and killed human beings. Not because of “hatred” or any other emotion but because they’re wild animals. They act on instinct. That’s it.

        • Scottie says:

          John face it animals act on emotions as much as we human animals do. Animals taken from their natural environment will act unnaturally as would any human. The animals you reference were not in their normal environment. There are far more variables inplay in that circumstance than you or I can list.

          I tell you a true experience of a naturalist investigator of a species in their own environment and you twist it to something in Las Vegas with animals in a cage. Again John I am disappointed. I was told how smart you are. This doesn’t show that. Could it be you must defend religion at all cost, even if it is not reasonable? Hugs

        • John Branyan says:

          “Animals taken from their natural environment will act unnaturally as would any human.”
          Right.
          But you wouldn’t give a human a pass for killing the neighbors because he just moved in from out of state and wasn’t feeling settled.
          You can’t have it both ways.

          …and I haven’t said ANYTHING about religion.
          Could it be that you must force a religious reference in order to divert attention from a failing of your worldview?

        • Scottie says:

          First John we have given passes for human kept in very harmful unnatural conditions. And we give then a pass for that.
          Don’t be an ass.

          Second nice try but this whole blog post and all the comments by Mel and you have been trying to force a religious positive view. I simply commented that you tend to force everything towards your religious views.

          You ascribe things to me that are better ascribed to yourself. The word projection comes to mind. Hugs

        • Scottie says:

          Also John, what of the many people claimed to be saved by god from horrific events. Yet during the same events many people were killed. Should we then claim this is proof of….natural causes?

          See how it is the same as you are implying? Hugs

        • John Branyan says:

          Yeah. Again…we aren’t talking about God.
          I thought you’d be happy about that.

        • Scottie says:

          John it was an example. You can understand using such a writen device in communication can’t you? Is this really your big response? Hugs

        • John Branyan says:

          No.
          My big response was earlier and you chose to throw a god reference into the mix for some reason.

          The difficulty you’re having is that you want to give animals credit for being “loving” when they lick your face but you won’t accuse them of “malice” when they chew your face off. You’re conflicted.

          Just admit that animals act on instinct, not emotion, and all the trouble evaporates.

        • Scottie says:

          What the heck are you reading and commenting on, it is nothing I have said. I call complete bullshit and I am tired of you acting this way. Yes I am angry because John you take what I write and distorted it.

          You are totally ignorant if you think an animal kept out of its natural environment will not act out destructively .At the same time you disregard the many times we have recorded of animals acting selflessly to save humans while putting them self in harms way.

          I dislike when you claim I won’t or refuse to say something that you want to say yourself. Please stop trying to do that with me. Try asking a question like a person wanting an answer would.

          You are totally wrong on this. Just admit it doesn’t fit with your worldview. Animals have repeatedly shown emotions and that is a fact. From saving humans to cats repeatedly going into a burning building to save their young. The fact is we are animals John, and we have emotions. So do the rest ,to their evolutionary development. Hugs

        • Mel Wild says:

          As our biology evolved that included a bigger brain. As our brain evolved it also included many more options than other animals, and yes we are animals. We developed reasoning, we developed languages, we developed the ability to live together, and yes all that development by evolution and that allowed us to reason out our morals.

          Sorry, Scottie, but this is all speculation, not hard science. Not that it’s impossible but there’s no necessary causal link between or actual evidence that the size of our brain produces morality, or even consciousness. And after having read you and John’s thread on emotions, having emotions are not the same thing as morality, which was the original point. Even in our physical brain, emotions come from a different part of our brain than where we reason and make moral decisions.

          I do agree, however, that animals have some lower sense of emotions and even personality, etc. But they don’t have morality. My cuddly cute cat would torture and eat me without hesitation if I were the size of a mouse.

        • Scottie says:

          Good afternoon Mel. I do have one question about morality. Do you think it immoral for your cat to eat you if you were mouse sized and the cat was hungry? If so, then I am among the many humans that eat meat and I do not see that as immoral. Have a great weekend, I know Sunday is a work day for you. Hugs

        • Mel Wild says:

          I understand what you’re trying to say, but my cat doesn’t torture and kill mice because he’s hungry. He does it for play. Of course, I agree, if a human tortured and killed an animal for play, that would be considered immoral. This is why humans create laws like animal rights and protections, because we are moral beings.

        • John Branyan says:

          I tried to have that conversation with another heathen awhile back.

          It is people who give animals “rights”. Animals need the higher moral standard of humans to determine “right” and “wrong” for them.

          And…humans need a higher moral standard to determine right and wrong for us. We cannot assign ourselves “rights”.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Yes, animals should be taken care of, but they don’t have “rights” as we do. That whole thing is pretty silly. We can love our pets without thinking they’re humans or have morals.

        • Scottie says:

          Hello John. OK but as I will have to include links this will go to moderation.

          Nearly 150 years ago, Charles Darwin proposed that morality was a byproduct of evolution, a human trait that arose as natural selection shaped man into a highly social species—and the capacity for morality, he argued, lay in small, subtle differences between us and our closest animal relatives. “The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind,” he wrote in his 1871 book The Descent of Man.

          https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/12/evolution-of-morality-social-humans-and-apes/418371/

          The following is in section 1 ( overview) of the link below.

          When it comes to morality, the most basic issue concerns our capacity for normative guidance: our ability to be motivated by norms of behavior and feeling through judgments about how people ought to act and respond in various circumstances (Joyce 2006, Kitcher 2006a,b, 2011, and Machery and Mallon 2010). Is this human capacity a biological adaptation, having perhaps conferred a selective advantage on our hominin ancestors by enhancing social cohesion and cooperation? (‘Hominin’ refers, as did ‘hominid’ until very recently, to Homo sapiens together with fossil species of ape to which Homo sapiens are more closely related than we are to chimpanzees; these include the Australopithecines, extinct species of Homo, etc., making up the tribe Hominini within the sub-family Homininae.)

          If so, then it would be part of evolved human nature to employ moral judgment in governing human behavior, rather than a mere “cultural veneer” artificially imposed on an amoral human nature (de Waal 2006). This would be a significant result, and it is only the beginning of the intriguing questions that arise at the intersection of morality and evolutionary biology. Researchers are also interested in the possibility of more specific forms of evolutionary influence. Are there, for example, emotional adaptations that influence the very content of moral judgments and behavior, even today?

          https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/morality-biology/

          The third link below is a blog and the author uses several sources. As he writes in long paragraphs it wouldn’t be fair to Mel to copy them here. The author does argue that morality is a product of evolution. You can give it a read.
          https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-nature-nurture-nietzsche-blog/201005/did-morality-evolve

          Well John I hope this helps clear up any misconceptions. Have a good weekend. Hugs

        • Mel Wild says:

          Thanks Scottie. These are interesting conjectures, but none of these things are actually proven by scientific method, nor can they logically be deduced. While it can be argued that we have evolved psychologically and sociologically as human beings, you cannot adduce that from natural selection. Again, that’s smuggling in a worldview and calling it science. And it still does not explain morality in the first place. We have not seen a steady evolutionary process of morality in human history. At least, we cannot make the logical connection to our biology.

        • Scottie says:

          OK, I can sort of see we are having the kind of discusion you normally have with Ark. You claim he won’t accept your evidence, and now you wont accept or give credence to mine. I can come up with link after link to journals and papers but if they won’t satisfy your specific requirement of evidence then it will be a waste of time and won’t help.

          I am satisfied I have shown there is evidence of morality and development of the kinds of emotions you insist come only from religions. I think part of the problem is in my view religions were created by man so all the ideas of them came from humans also.

          I know you do not share this view, and you have faith in a religion. That is cool. It is your right in our country. I thank you for letting me show the other side of the issue for anyone else who maybe reading. I have to leave this as the end as I am really way behind today ( for the whole week in fact ) but it has been interesting. Hugs

        • Scottie says:

          Hello John, I responded but it is moderation until Mel has time to release it. But I did answer you question / demand. Hugs

        • Mel Wild says:

          Hello Mel. Thanks for the reply. I was going to forgo replying until I came to the last paragraph. You and I will have to agree to strongly disagree on the issue of where our emotional development came from.

          Of course, we can agree to disagree on this, Scottie. And, in truth, we cannot separate our human history and all that has developed in civilization from where these values came from so it would impossible to prove today. My point is that you cannot logically make a coherent argument for altruistic, other-centered love and compassion evolving from a purely Darwinist biological model. At least, I’ve never seen or heard a coherent argument. All I ever get is naturalists smuggling their worldview into it and making unsubstantiated faith statements. Darwinism, by definition, simply does not necessarily or logically lead to self-giving, other-centered love. Survival of the species can be also pitiless and indifferent (quoting Dawkins). So, to make this claim from our biology alone would take a huge leap of faith. You just can’t logically get there from our biology alone. At best, you are making a faith statement based on your worldview, not on actual science. And I’m not even bringing “God” into the picture here. Logically, these counter-intuitive values MUST come from somewhere else.

          You have a great weekend, too. 🙂

        • Scottie says:

          Mel, I sent a response to john. You may like it also as the articles I mention do show how morality can be attributed to evolution. So while I agree with you it happened slowly over time and was mixed with other developments such as socialization, evolution ( there is no such thing as darwinism ) can account for what we are talking about. Now believing it is a different matter. You don’t. I do. Be well. Hugs

      • Scottie says:

        Hello again Mel. I replied to your answer and I thank you for the quick reply. I just wanted you to know my comment went to moderation because I included two links. You can delete this one once you read it to save space on your blog. Thanks. Hugs

        • Mel Wild says:

          Scottie. I just saw that. Links automatically go into moderation. I will check it out and pass them on if they are relevant. I will also read your comments, of course. 🙂 It will probably be later tonight because I have several meetings in between.. Busy day!

        • Scottie says:

          Its OK, I knew the links would hold it up but I felt it necessary to say where I got the information. I also forgot to enclose the quote but I was rushing too fast to proof read well. Enjoy your meetings. LIfe does get in the way of blogging and it is quite rude about it. 😉 Hugs

  2. jim- says:

    In the end Mel, the crux of it for me is open dialog. No backroom religious agenda driven deception. All on the table with men and women and no invisible gods directing the direction of the process using an old process started by an angry nomadic desert tribe. No hidden controls of guilt and hell, just laws we iron out between ourselves to promote absolute equal opportunity for every single person. We could do it much better. Religion has had its shot how many years? I don’t think it has been effective at all.

  3. John Branyan says:

    In the end Jim, the crux of it is your statement, “we could do it much better”.
    No. We can’t.

    Please, please, please, please, PLEASE, stop referencing “an angry nomadic desert tribe” as the source of Christian morality. This makes you look stupid and it’s making me uncomfortable. I don’t like awkwardness.

    You are judging an ancient culture by our contemporary cultural norms. Every culture has specific rules of conduct that do not apply to other cultures and people. Your condescension regarding the “angry nomads” is repulsive. It’s the equivalent of calling British people “unsophisticated savages” because they drive on the left side of the road.

    • jim- says:

      Why do we have to base a society on the writings of an ancient culture? It does matter when it has failed equality at so many levels. I’m more interested in hearing from Mel than you. The Bible as you say was for a different time, that’s where it should stay.

      • John Branyan says:

        “Why do we have to base a society on the writings of an ancient culture?”
        We don’t! I’ve asked half a dozen times what we should base society on and you haven’t offered an alternative.

        • jim- says:

          I did in my comment to Mel. Pretty simple. Here we go again John. You are a bull headed man child today

        • John Branyan says:

          You offered no alternatives in your comment to Mel. Calling me names doesn’t relieve you of the responsibility of outlining this “better way” that mankind has supposedly discovered apart from religion.

        • jim- says:

          You started by pointing out I sound stupid. I’m not going to waste Mel’s entire comment section with you. We just disagree.

        • John Branyan says:

          It wouldn’t be a waste of comment section if you would actually state your case instead of dodging and ducking.

          We don’t “disagree” because you haven’t offered your alternative to religious morality. Right now, you’re in limbo. I’m eager to ditch my ancient moral codes and embrace the enlightenment of modern humanism. Just tell me how your morality works.

        • jim- says:

          It was in my first comment to Mel. Your just to busy looking for fault. “In the end Mel, the crux of it for me is open dialog. No backroom religious agenda driven deception. All on the table with men and women and no invisible gods directing the direction of the process No hidden controls of guilt and hell, just laws we iron out between ourselves to promote absolute equal opportunity for every single person. We could do it much better”.

        • John Branyan says:

          Yes. You’ve said we must eliminate religion. I get it. No more “angry tribe” morality. You need to explain what we replace it with.

          Just tell me how your morality works.

        • jim- says:

          I already explained it in previous comments on previous posts. It is in all the elements to find equilibrium and balance. Including us. Cooperation is a natural instinct for survival. To be blunt, the Ten Commandments have not prevented murder or adultery. Consequences do however. Nature will win.

        • John Branyan says:

          You haven’t explained anything. Equilibrium is not morality. Cooperation is NOT an instinct for survival. Competition is the instinct that drives survival.

          I agree with you that the Ten Commandments have not prevented murder or adultery. I have no idea what you mean when you said, “consequences do however”. Consequences have not prevented murder or adultery either. So nature hasn’t “won” anything.

          Are you starting to understand that eliminating religion doesn’t solve the problem of immorality?

        • jim- says:

          One point John. Cooperation is necessary for survival. Even “lesser” animals learn that. Why can’t you?

        • John Branyan says:

          False.
          Lesser animals kill each other with no remorse in competition for scarce resources. Children learn that. Why can’t you?

        • jim- says:

          Lol. Round and round you go. Good day sir. Been fun but duty calls.

        • jim- says:

          And BTW. Humans have to be trained to kill others for the most part. Civil war, WWI and WWII trigger pulls analysis is a telling point about our real nature. Christianity has a long history of getting their subjects to kill and do what they normally wouldn’t do. No one is as dumb as all of us Lol

        • John Branyan says:

          “Humans have to be trained to kill others for the most part. Civil war, WWI and WWII trigger pulls analysis is a telling point about our real nature.”

          Exactly.
          You’re connecting the dots.
          Do you understand how that statement torched humanist morality? You just crashed your thesis.

        • jim- says:

          You’ve missed the point completely.

        • jim- says:

          Your guys have done a lot of killing. How is that a gotcha? My stance is without religion that would not have happened. Like Columbus killing natives and playing crosses in every country he visited.

        • John Branyan says:

          “My stance is without religion that would not have happened. Like Columbus killing natives and playing crosses in every country he visited.”

          Focus, Jim.
          I get that “your stance” is there would be no immorality without religion. I get it.

          I don’t think you understand my “stance”. If you can’t explain my point of view then you don’t even know what you’re arguing against. Can you explain my position?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Your guys have done a lot of killing. How is that a gotcha? My stance is without religion that would not have happened.

          Jim, yes, you’re right, we can point to so-called Christians who killed thinking they were serving God. I have been very critical of this myself. No secret there. But the obvious point that should not be missed is that they were doing so in direct contradiction to Christ’s teachings. They were using a misapplication of scripture as a pretext for political power, greed, subjugation, and murder that has nothing whatsoever to do with actually being a Christian. Quite the opposite, actually.

          We must all own up to our past sins, but one simply cannot make a coherent argument that this is a religious problem. For instance, we saw great human atrocities, including over 100 million people killed, in the 20th century under secular governments; more vicious and dehumanizing than anything before in history. So, just like we should not blame science by pointing to the experiments in eugenics and creating weapons of mass destruction in the 20th century, we cannot blame Christianity for what Columbus did. Evil men do evil things, regardless of what pretense they may use.

          The only common denominator to violence is human nature. Period. Christ’s teachings, like in the Sermon on the Mount, exposes this for what it is at a deep human level. It certainly doesn’t condone it for any reason.

        • jim- says:

          And those that are praying now for Trump to usher in the second coming to wipe out the heathen. Muslims are working on that themselves with their politically proselytizing religious ways and Christian are at least now courteous enough to wait for Jesus to wipe us out. Good thing we have laws to protect us.

        • John Branyan says:

          I don’t think we owe Jim any more explanations.

          His “stance” is stupid. Christians are NOT responsible for most of the violence in history. Not even close.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Sorry, Jim, cooperation and compassion are NOT attributes of survival. It only works as long as there is no threat of survival. And we can easily test this with a hypothetical situation.

          Suppose we put two men in a cage. Let’s says neither one has any religious conviction and they will act based on instinct for survival. Furthermore, let’s say one man is bigger and stronger than the other one. Next, let’s put one ration of food in the cage which is just enough for one person to survive, but no more. And we do this for one or two months, only giving enough food for one person to survive.

          The question is, under the Neo-Darwinist model ONLY (no borrowing other ontologies), what will happen? The only honest answer would be is that the stronger person will survive and the weaker person will die. This is why the idea of cooperation under a Neo-Darwinist model is fallacious and misguided. It cannot produce the society you think it will produce.

        • John Branyan says:

          Yep. There is nothing reasonable or logical about a strong man sacrificing his life for a weak man. Selflessness only makes sense in a religious context.

        • jim- says:

          Thanks Mel. I like to keep things pretty simple in my life. One thing I’ve observed over the years is people try their best to sell you something you don’t need. Convincing you that you need their services for things to be ok. Selling salvation is the same. Religion has convinced everyone that they need it and without it things are going to be really bad. Your hypothetical is just that. Their are other mechanisms not in your scenario to equalize the fight. You don’t know which man has the most compassion or empathy for the other. And from what I’ve observed no religion or non religion changes that or gives you the ability to know the outcome. And it could very well be the atheist in the cage that dies.

        • Mel Wild says:

          You don’t know which man has the most compassion or empathy for the other.

          That is not a valid argument. I could easily predict which one would survive if we base the answer strictly on Neo-Darwinism. The stronger would have to survive. There is no other answer possible. There would be no moral inclination from Neo-Darwinism itself to suggest otherwise. Cooperation is out the door. You can’t have it both ways, Jim. You must follow your worldview to its logical conclusion. On the other hand, if one man had a Christian worldview, he might be inclined to give his food to the weaker man. In fact, if we strictly follow Christ’s teachings, he would.

      • Mel Wild says:

        @ Jim. You said:

        Why do we have to base a society on the writings of an ancient culture? It does matter when it has failed equality at so many levels.

        Jim, I’m curious as to the validity of your statement. How have the teachings of Christ failed? And how is loving others as yourself, doing unto to others as you would have them do unto you, which is what Jesus said hangs all Scriptural intent, and central to the Christian message, antiquated and irrelevant today?

        My other question addresses what John B. alluded to. I have yet to hear a coherent argument for how a materialist, Neo-Darwinist worldview will give us any semblance of a compassionate and altruistic society, and I quote Richard Dawkins himself:

        In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind, pitiless, indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. (Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden, New York, Basic Books, 1992, p. 133)

        I don’t see how this blind, pitiless, and indifferent ontology, based on survival of the fittest, can inherently produce a society that will continue to operate with other-centered love and compassion for the marginalized, etc., without borrowing from other sources, shall I say, metaphysical sources. And, as Hart said, if we have the 20th century as an example, we should be extremely skeptical of such hope because those experiments failed miserably.

        • jim- says:

          The teachings have failed in the fact they have drawn lines of self righteousness in the sand and forced whole nations into compliance. I know the scripture has many valid points, but morality existed before that as in the Good Samaritan. It was the one without the law that lived the exemplary life. Very possible according to your own book. While Christianity preaches righteousness, it fails to delivery any better way than what naturally occurs through consequence.

        • Mel Wild says:

          The teachings have failed in the fact they have drawn lines of self righteousness in the sand and forced whole nations into compliance.

          And you’re not making an argument against Christianity. You are making an argument against a coercive politicized state version of “Christian” triumphalism found in the Roman Empire and Medieval Europe. And you are also leaving out all the unique benefits that even this poor version of Christendom gave to human civilization. This is simply a straw man that no reputable secular historian would even agree with.

          You need to actually understand what Christianity teaches before you make a sweeping generation that it’s failed.

        • jim- says:

          You’ve avoided the fact your people are currently hoping for our destruction. How is that Christian? The text.

        • Mel Wild says:

          You’ve avoided the fact your people are currently hoping for our destruction. How is that Christian? The text.

          No, I haven’t avoided anything. If that is actually true, my answer is simple. That’s not even remotely Christian. That is anger and murder hiding behind “Christianity” as a pretext. That’s the opposite of what Christ teaches.

        • jim- says:

          I guess from what I get from you and John is that most Christians are not Christians. I guess We all have room for improvement. Thanks for your time. Things to think about. Good dialog.

        • John Branyan says:

          “Most Christians” are not currently hoping for your destruction. “Most Christians” are not eager to see the heathen “wiped out”. You don’t understand the point that Mel is making. You need to be able to articulate Mel’s position before you can argue against it. Right now, you’re arguing against a position that nobody in the conversation holds.

  4. John Branyan says:

    You haven’t explained anything. Equilibrium is not morality. Cooperation is NOT an instinct for survival. Competition is the instinct that drives survival.

    I agree with you that the Ten Commandments have not prevented murder or adultery. I have no idea what you mean when you said, “consequences do however”. Consequences have not prevented murder or adultery either. So nature hasn’t “won” anything.

    Are you starting to understand that eliminating religion doesn’t solve the problem of immorality?

  5. John Branyan says:

    Hey Mel,

    Good post!
    Atheists are full of criticism for a cartoon Christianity that nobody actually believes. They shriek about how great the world will be when we eliminate religion from culture. Of course, the only thing that makes our culture different from any other animal group…is religion. So the atheist utopia is mankind descending into depraved self-interest.

    The idea that cooperation promotes survival is ludicrous. So, of course, atheists promote that idea.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Atheists are full of criticism for a cartoon Christianity that nobody actually believes.

      Yes, it’s easy to criticize a caricature. It’s a lot harder to have a coherent argument. 🙂

      The idea that cooperation promotes survival is ludicrous.

      Yeah, nice fluffy Pollyanna thoughts with no substance or evidence. 🙂 It’s naïve and laughable, only plausible in a vacuum as an abstraction (or in books written by academics in ivory towers). It fails miserably in the concrete, when taken to its logical conclusion on the mean streets. The reality is, when pushed to it, “unguided” people, freed from their conscience or morality are not much different than sociopaths. But regardless, a preponderance of evidence shows that people will do whatever they can get away with when under enough pressure.

  6. Nan says:

    @Mel

    You pointed out that popular anti-Christian evangelists trade on the fact that most followers of Christianity are woefully ignorant of Christian history. While I’m certainly not a “popular anti-Christian evangelist,” I have to say from my own personal experiences, this statement is accurate. Not only are they unfamiliar with Christian history, many (most?) don’t have a clue about much of what’s in the book they claim to live by.

    Your have repeatedly pointed out that “living for Christ” is much different that simply “being a Christian.” And to this point, I tend to agree. However, in essence, this is what most atheists and non-believers base their criticisms on, i.e, those who like to label themselves as “Christian” but who lack any demonstrations of the “peace, love, and compassion” you mention.

    In essence, we (both sides) can paint any kind of picture we choose to represent our personal convictions. In this post, you happened to reference Hart’s perspective. In practice, atheists are not doing anything different when they reference Dawkins, Hitchens, et al.

    The problem arises, at least in my opinion, when we attempt to discount each other’s individual take on life.

    • Mel Wild says:

      @ Nan.

      However, in essence, this is what most atheists and non-believers base their criticisms on, i.e, those who like to label themselves as “Christian” but who lack any demonstrations of the “peace, love, and compassion” you mention.

      I would agree with your criticism here. As it’s been said, the only trouble with Christianity is Christians! But, while this is a valid criticism, it must also be understood that these actions are in contradiction to Christ’s teachings, not because of them. We must separate human failure from what it means to follow Christ. Btw, I say “follow Christ” because the word, Christianity, is such a loaded and distorted term today.

      In essence, we (both sides) can paint any kind of picture we choose to represent our personal convictions. In this post, you happened to reference Hart’s perspective. In practice, atheists are not doing anything different when they reference Dawkins, Hitchens, et al.

      I would agree again, in principle. Hart’s argument is specifically against the so-called New Atheists, to which Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, and Harris are the main voices, either heard directly from them or from their followers. And Hart points out, and I would agree, they’re main criticism seems to be against a certain form of hyper-fundamentalism, which neither represents historic Christianity or even the majority view today.

      To be fair, Hart has even said that he wishes there were atheists of the caliber of Nietzsche that would have a more mature and coherent argument. But all he finds in the New Atheists is nothing more than the flip side of extreme dogmatic fundamentalism. And I agree with his point, btw.

      Dawkins et al are the most belligerent of the so-called New Atheists, but the viciousness and sanctimonious attacks and misinformation is certainly not limited to them. I hear the same vitriol parroted all the time on the Internet and on blogs, and directed at me. I think better, more mature communication happens when critics actually understand Christian ontology instead of some caracture of it, or at least be specific as to what particular aspect they are criticizing and not make sweeping generalizations, and also give the whole story of history, not just the parts that suit their purposes. That is, if they want their arguments to be taken seriously.

      • Nan says:

        I hear the same vitriol parroted all the time on the Internet and on blogs — ON BOTH SIDES!

        And you’re correct — better, more mature communication would happen if individuals … again, on both sides … knew what they were talking about! Instead, much of the prattle between the two is simply repetition of something they heard or read on a blog or Facebook or Twitter.

        And while you may not like the “New Atheist” point of view, many non-believers dislike, to the same degree, the in-your-face-you’re-going-to-hell approach by some so-called Christians. And don’t just lay the blame on the Fundamentalists. I’ve come across several “devoted Christians” who “preach” to the point it makes one gag.

        So you see … it works both ways.

        Of course, if we could all be mature and respectful like you and me, this whole discussion would be unnecessary. .😁

        • Mel Wild says:

          Of course, if we could all be mature and respectful like you and me, this whole discussion would be unnecessary. .😁

          Yes, indeed. You’re a very intelligent and perceptive person, Nan. 🙂

  7. Scottie says:

    Mel about my points made in a comment that is still in moderation. Do you have an issue with them? If not let the people see them. If you do have issue with them , tell me why. Also I do have a comment to the discussion between you, Jim, and JB on if Christians want non-christians dead. The end time events necessitate that non-believers in Jesus must die during the return of Jesus with the new city of god. The end times events listed in several books of the bible. That alone doesn’t mean christians want non-christians to die, but those christian groups pushing for events in Israel because of their faith in the end times are doing just that, working for the death of the unsaved. It seems simple to me either you believe that not all are saved and so must die, or all are saved and the religious stuff is for not. Hugs

  8. Well said, Mel. You’ll get no argument from me! I was born into “no religion,” but unfortunately that seemed to do nothing to fix our innate sin problem. Sadly, even if you take the religion out of people, you’re still left with the people-part, and it’s the people-part that is the problem.

    I chuckled about how, “cooperation is necessary for survival.” Gallows humor I suppose, but “cooperation” has darn near killed me a few times. At some point I realized that not only was cooperation and love, not even survival oriented, it was completely irrational. If I were going to be genuinely intelligent and logical, then it would have made a lot more sense to just shoot people. fortunately for all the people in need of being evicted from my planet, the Lord found me.

    I also enjoyed the reference to Nietzsche. He’s actually responsible for building a great deal of my faith. Now there was a man who could provide a real challenge to our disordered thinking. I’ve written a few tributes to him over the years. Here’s one that’s somewhat amusing. 🙂

    https://insanitybytes2.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/romancing-neitzsche/

    • Mel Wild says:

      Nietzsche was a brilliant thinker and said some profound things about God that I don’t even think many Christians understand! You got to love how “out of the box” he was for his time. He was also definitely misunderstood and misquoted. For instance, the “God is dead” meme (before memes were cool). What Nietzsche was actually saying was that the current state of the church killed God, basically, that most “church-goers” were practicing atheists. And he was right. As Hart mentions, he actually considered what terrible impact the loss of authentic Christianity would have on civilization. And this is from someone who hated Christianity! Yes, he was an enigma! They just don’t make atheists like him anymore.

      I love your testimony. “Nietzsche led me to faith!” LOL! 🙂

  9. ndifrisco says:

    It’s especially baffling that atheists seem to think that this superior morality they proclaim would exist without religion is – according to their own beliefs – the result of blind chance, random mutation, and literal, red-in-tooth-and-claw, survival of the fittest. Yeah. Sounds real peaceful and enlightened.

  10. John Branyan says:

    Should I hold you accountable for calling me an ass? Or are you feeling unsettled because we’ve ventured into unfamiliar territory and you couldn’t help yourself?

    And nice try yourself! I’ve quoted no scripture. I’ve mentioned no diety. This is just good old-fashioned reason. Again…this is what you guys are always wanting to do! Shuck the religious nonsense and think about stuff!

  11. Ron says:

    Numerous societies have existed quite blissfully without Judeo-Christian theology.

    Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle recounts ex-Christian missionary Daniel Everett’s adventures in trying to convert one such tribe living in the Amazon.

    Here is the book description:

    A riveting account of the astonishing experiences and discoveries made by linguist Daniel Everett while he lived with the Pirahã, a small tribe of Amazonian Indians in central Brazil. Daniel Everett arrived among the Pirahã with his wife and three young children hoping to convert the tribe to Christianity. Everett quickly became obsessed with their language and its cultural and linguistic implications. The Pirahã have no counting system, no fixed terms for color, no concept of war, and no personal property. Everett was so impressed with their peaceful way of life that he eventually lost faith in the God he’d hoped to introduce to them, and instead devoted his life to the science of linguistics. Part passionate memoir, part scientific exploration, Everett’s life-changing tale is riveting look into the nature of language, thought, and life itself.

    And from a book review:

    The world is a strange and wonderful place, and nowhere is this more graphically illustrated in Daniel Everett’s Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes, now available at nine different SJPL branches. As a young man Daniel travels to the Amazon river with his family to learn the language of an obscure tribe of indigenous river dwellers called the Pirahã Indians, and to convert them to Christianity. Their language is not related to any other known language. Parts of it are truly unique: they have no words for numbers, and colors can only be relatively described–green is “the color like grass” or blue is “the color like sky.” Time, too, is different–you are unable to describe something from before you are born–the past no longer exists. They have no creation myth, and worship no deities.

    They do not have much interest in the world outside of their own area, and to them everything is transitory, even life. They routinely die of diseases that we take for granted in the first world, and their life expectancy is abysmal. Yet, paradoxically, they are considered the happiest people in the world. They live genuinely for the moment and care deeply about one another, sharing communally and having few tribal laws. The book’s title comes from how they say good night–they pride themselves on self-sufficiency, and this is expected of everyone in the tribe.

    Sadly, modern encroachments have now all but wiped out their self-sufficient existence.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Sadly, modern encroachments have now all but wiped out their self-sufficient existence.

      I agree. I gave my answer to this in my other comments (“About Following Christ”) so I won’t repeat them here. But the advantage this tribe had was their isolation. This why where population is more concentrated, and diverse, there is a tendency toward higher crime rates (it also depends on cultural values, like consumerism can lead to more thefts, etc.). There are a lot of other factors why Everett might’ve lost his faith. One being, bad theology. Their lives could’ve challenged his view of human nature and caused him to question his faith. It’s hard to know for certain.

      On what you said about modern encroachment, when I was in Ukraine teaching students at a Bible school shortly after they broke away from the Soviet Union, I saw the innocence of the believers there and told them there’s a lot they DON’T need to learn from the West!

      • Ron says:

        His explained his loss of faith came after he realized he had nothing of value to offer them: they’re already happy, they don’t fear death or believe in an afterlife, and more importantly they demanded empirical evidence to substatntiate his God beliefs. Nor is he alone. In his book he notes that they’ve withstood centuries of proselytizing. In short, they have no use for religious mythicism.

        • Mel Wild says:

          His explained his loss of faith came after he realized he had nothing of value to offer them: they’re already happy, they don’t fear death or believe in an afterlife…”

          Ron, this is only true if they were right about their worldview and there is no afterlife. If there is an afterlife, then they are quite deluded and wrong. In the grand scheme of things, they would’ve rejected the very source of life and would have squandered their days on earth by denying the very reason they exist. And many people live happy lives that has no bearing on the truth. You can be quite happy and tragically wrong in your thinking.

          …and more importantly they demanded empirical evidence to substatntiate his God beliefs.

          Okay, I’m very skeptical of this statement because it seems incongruent and the argument is fallacious. First, it sounds like a modern atheist intellectual argument, not one a primitive tribe would intuitively make. If it is, they about the only primitive people who are like this on the earth. Second, another atheist argument for “evidence.” It’s a category mistake. What kind of “empirical evidence” could one provide? If God is spirit, and exists outside of time and space, then you could not use scientific method at all. Science cannot deal with anything outside of natural regularities with repeatable laws of nature. In fact, you cannot even use scientific method on anything experiential or metaphysical in nature (and many other areas of life), whether it’s true or not. You are embracing scientism (not science) when you think it should.

          Last, I would say the greatest, most obvious natural empirical evidence we have is that we exist at all. That we even ponder transcendence and higher meaning, which is not logical if we are only a product of natural selection. Or, that we all, regardless of whether we acknowledge God or not, have consciousness that defies scientific explanation. These things demands an answer that scientific methodology, by definition, cannot answer. It’s logically incoherent to say nature created itself from nothing.

        • Ron says:

          On what basis can you declare their worldview is wrong? They’ve managed to live in peace and harmony for centuries without benefit of any religious beliefs. To me such assertions propagate the concepts embodied within European colonialism and American exceptionalism.

          As to empiricism, it’s how we navigate life. When people say things that contradicate our everyday experiences, we demand evidence. So why should religious pronouncements remain immune from such requests? And what empirical evidence supports your belief in an afterlife?

          According to Mr. Everett’s linguistic studies, the Pirahã language contains no numbers or words to communicate events relating to the distant past or future. As such, they live fully within the present moment and all verb suffixes identify the source of evidence in one of three ways:

          – did you hear about it?
          – did you see it with your own eyes? or
          – did you deduce it from the local evidence?

          i.e. – it must be witnessed directly or by someone you know.

          He recalls one exchange in which they asked him about Jesus:

          “So Dan, Jesus, is he brown like us or white like you?”
          “I don’t know. I haven’t seen him.”

          “Well what did your dad say? Cuz your dad must have seen him.”
          “No, he never saw him.”

          “Well what did your friends say, who saw him?”
          “I don’t know anybody who saw him.”

          “Why are you telling us about him, then?”

          You ask, “What empirical evidence could one provide?” To which I respond: Wouldn’t an all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving being possess the answer to that question and provide it without asking? And what distinguishes a god that exists outside of the space-time continuum from a non-existent god? Can you cite any other ‘relationship’ where one party deliberately hides itself from others?

          Nature is evidence only to the existence of nature, not a supernatural creator.

          Moreover, the scriptures state that God is perfect. And by definition, perfect means ‘without defect’. However, those same scriptures claim that God desires worship — a clear sign that God is not without defect, for a perfect being would have no needs or desires. As such, the Christian conception of God is flawed.

        • Nan says:

          And what empirical evidence supports your belief in an afterlife? BINGO!

        • Mel Wild says:

          No, it’s nonsensical and absurd, Nan. A fallacious category mistake. You cannot empirically prove or disprove the afterlife with natural science. Its methodology is not capable of testing anything outside of the natural world. It’s a bogus question because it cannot be answered one way or the other.

        • Nan says:

          Of course you would deny the substance of the question. But these words, Mel: Last, I would say the greatest, most obvious natural empirical evidence we have is that we exist at all indicates you do place some value in empirical evidence. Thus, the question is valid.

          Of course from your perspective, anything/anyone that disputes the existence of a supernatural entity is a “naturalist” or follows “scientism” — both of which are “dirty words” in your vocabulary. In actuality, you may be surprised to know there are scientists who believe that scientism and its “method of skeptical inquiry is the most reliable path to the truth.”

        • Mel Wild says:

          Of course you would deny the substance of the question. But these words, Mel: Last, I would say the greatest, most obvious natural empirical evidence we have is that we exist at all indicates you do place some value in empirical evidence. Thus, the question is valid.

          No, I’m not denying anything. I’m trying to get you to make a coherent argument. Yes, we can have natural evidence in the fact that nature exists at all, but it’s fallacious to ask for empirical evidence for anything that cannot be tested and repeated by scientific method. It’s a category mistake. You cannot repeat experiments on the afterlife or God Himself, if He exists. That’s absurd and bogus.

          Of course from your perspective, anything/anyone that disputes the existence of a supernatural entity is a “naturalist” or follows “scientism” — both of which are “dirty words” in your vocabulary….

          Yes, because that’s the definition of naturalism and scientism. Naturalism a worldview that denies anything outside of nature, which doesn’t even allow consideration of anything beyond itself. Scientism is NOT science; it’s a worldview that only accepts scientific discovery to define reality, which is self-refuting since you could not use scientific method to prove it. So, of course, I would not respect these views. They are irrational and incoherent.

          …you may be surprised to know there are scientists who believe that scientism and its “method of skeptical inquiry is the most reliable path to the truth.”

          Nan, again, I’m sorry but it makes me laugh when I hear these things. They are not skeptical enough of their own myopic worldview! They will not consider anything that cannot be tested by scientific method. That is not being skeptical, that’s narrow-minded dogmatism. Again, there are scientists who do not hold the worldview of scientism.

          Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for scientific method when applied properly. But think about it honestly. If there is more to reality and truth than what can be tested by scientific method in the natural world, then they will never find the whole truth, no matter how much science advances. There is nothing indifferent or unbiased about their approach. No, they are not skeptical enough of their own biased paradigm.

        • Nan says:

          I’m trying to get you to make a coherent argument. Sorry, Mel, but I might say the same about you.

          And yes, you DID deny the substance of the question when you wrote, You cannot empirically prove or disprove the afterlife with natural science.

          No offense, but in many of my comments on your blog, I have tried to give you the benefit of the doubt since I DO know where you’re coming from. Yet you persist/insist that anyone who does not see your perspective “doesn’t understand” or their argument is “fallacious” or it’s a “category mistake,” or it’s “bogus,” etc., etc. No, Mel. As non-believers, we just happen to view life from a different perspective. You are certain, based on your personal perspective/interpretation of God and Jesus, that your beliefs are more valid.

          But the undeniable truth is … none of us will know unequivocally who’s right until each of us have taken our last breath. 🙂

        • Mel Wild says:

          Yet you persist/insist that anyone who does not see your perspective “doesn’t understand” or their argument is “fallacious” or it’s a “category mistake,” or it’s “bogus,” etc., etc. No, Mel. As non-believers, we just happen to view life from a different perspective.

          I insist because this argument is fallacious and bogus, not because you have a different perspective than me. This is not about my perspective, it’s about making a logical argument.

          A category mistake is a fallacious argument where a particular category is presented as if it belonged to a different category. God and nature would not be in the same category (if God does exist, of course). You and Ron are asking for empirical evidence, which means something that can tested and is repeatable by scientific methodology. But scientific methodology does not deal with anything metaphysical. It cannot. Obviously, God or the afterlife is not a thing in nature. Therefore, it is a fallacious category mistake to ask for empirical evidence for God or the afterlife.

          But the undeniable truth is … none of us will know unequivocally who’s right until each of us have taken our last breath. 🙂

          And I totally agree with that, so then why are we being asked to present “empirical evidence?” That makes your argument incoherent to me. If the afterlife cannot be proven, then you need just as much faith as I do to believe what you believe about the afterlife. And if there is an afterlife, or God, then your perspective is irrelevant.

        • Mel Wild says:

          On what basis can you declare their worldview is wrong?

          I said IF they are wrong. If God exists, then they would be wrong. IF there is an afterlife, they would be wrong. It’s that simple. Besides, we do exist, we do live and breath. We didn’t create ourselves. Their worldview does not explain this. This is evidence if one is open to it; if one is not open to it, then no amount of evidence will make them believe.

          And what distinguishes a god that exists outside of the space-time continuum from a non-existent god? Can you cite any other ‘relationship’ where one party deliberately hides itself from others?

          Besides nature itself, God traversed time and space by revealing Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, who lived, died, and was raised from the dead. Jesus was a real person in history. He showed us that whatever is like Jesus is like God. And God has revealed Himself to millions of people experientially over 2,000 years, and in so many other ways that you cannot put under a microscope.

          Nature is evidence only to the existence of nature, not a supernatural creator.

          And that doesn’t answer the question about why it exists in the first place; it can only avoid it by infinite regress. It’s also fallacious because it’s circular reasoning. Nature cannot make itself “be” from nature. That’s absurd and incoherent.

          Moreover, the scriptures state that God is perfect. And by definition, perfect means ‘without defect’. However, those same scriptures claim that God desires worship — a clear sign that God is not without defect…

          And you clearly don’t understand what that means. God desires worship because it’s for OUR benefit. He’s not some pagan deity that must be appeased or else. God is other-centered, self-giving love, and worship is about participating in that love in the divine nature. God does not need anything from us. We need Him.

        • Ron says:

          Right. IF they’re wrong and IF God exists and IF there is an afterlife. But once again, what empirical evidence supports all those hypothetetical “IFs”? Their worldview doesn’t require such explanations because they live in an infinite present; they have no conception, nor words for terms like beginning and end, or past and future.

          The remainder of your response is simply a rehash of your theology. Unfortunately, appeals to hearsay and personal feelings do not constitute tangible evidence for the existence of a supernatural being. If you posit the universe requires a creator in order to avoid an infinite regress, then the same logic applies to said creator; otherwise you engage in special pleading.

          As to your final point, my understanding is sound. Words have meanings. By definition, a perfect being is complete and lacks for nothing. Yet Christian theology posits that at some point God was motivated to create a universe and requires worship — an indication that God lacked something and is not complete.

        • John Branyan says:

          Still would like to hear a summarization of your religious background.
          I would like to know where you learned your theology so I can write them a letter. They did a shameful job with you.

          Mel gave you thoughtful responses to your objections.
          You dismissed it all as “heresay and personal feelings” seemingly oblivious that your dismissal is merely YOUR personal feelings.

          What empirical evidence supports your assertion that “words have meanings”?

  12. It sounds like Nietzsche was one who could disagree but not be overly disagreeable.

  13. I have wondered a long time why anyone would not want to believe in Jesus or would even hate Jesus, and it comes to an understanding that the Bible is misunderstood. As simple as that seems, there responsibility in Christianity. We don’t just sit in a chapel on Sunday and daydream about football until the sermon is done. Sunday is social hour. A time to convene and share coffee and donuts and be with friends who share an interest in Jesus. The rest of the week is when we devote our lives to Jesus Christ and plant seeds, be Good Samaritans, do good deeds and accept nothing in return. That is my take.

  14. There is no need for any argument at all! I would rather say, and it’s very conspicuous that Christianity is no more a religion, but a covetous way of life to those who care enough about God’s kingdom here on earth and in heaven.

  15. Stefan says:

    Good post!
    I just started a new blog to tell my tale of going through the Bible. It is important that all people, especially atheists know the Bible from our point of view before they make their accusations. As a teenager and a representative of the ‘new’ generation of information technology, I have seen firsthand what a lack of knowledge can do to you and your view of something. As Christians it is our job though, to take their harsh statements and still learn to love them. The correct mix of apologetics and heart is required for today’s evangelism because today, the choice to give up something for a way of life is highly debated.
    God bless!

    amorningcoffeewithjesus.wordpress.com

  16. All the finger pointing at specific examples and personal quotes aside, in the world at this moment the societies with the best societal health factors are the least religious. Yes, this means the most religious societies have the worst societal health factors. And in the U.S. specifically, the deep south with much higher rates of religiosity, their societal health factors are worse than the rest of the country. Despite the ardent teachings of the religion, the deep south has higher divorce rates, higher teen pregnancy rates, higher abortion rates, higher obesity, lower mean wages, and lower average education, higher homicide, crime, etc.
    Two part question. Part one, is not lower abortion rates, lower murder rates, higher education rates, lower divorce rates, lower teen pregnancy rates, etc what we want? Part two, if your religion says it is the answer to the above, why do they perform worse?
    Looking forward to the discussion, TSA

    • Mel Wild says:

      I hear this one a lot and have seen the reports, but your conclusion from the data is very debatable and misleading, conflating differing factors together and blaming religion. First, you are stereotyping, taking a very narrow sample, pointing to the deep south. Second, high crime, homicide etc., in the deep south and inner city is tied more to societal factors like high poverty and poor or no education, not religion. For instance, high crime in Chicago and Detroit has nothing to do with religious beliefs at all. Third, churches also tend to be more legalistic and fundamentalist in the deep south. Yet, over 90% Christianity worldwide is not the deep south nor is it fundamentalist.

      On the other hand, another interesting factor besides education is that a lot of the new atheists/skeptics are primarily white and male (with white female close behind). And there are other reasons why our current education system produces a lot of skeptics and atheists. But there are Christians among some of the most educated people in the best universities in the world, too. So, these conclusions are stereotypes at best.

      • John Branyan says:

        Hah! Good luck telling the Spartan he is misunderstanding the evidence.
        He’s an expert at interpreting evidence because he has evidence which he has expertly crafted that proves it.

        He honestly believes that evidence which leads to more than one conclusion IS NOT evidence. It’s cool that you’re walking him through the truth but you might as well tell it to your cat. At least the cat won’t scoff and call you a liar.

      • Hi, Mel. For some clarification. 1) I didn’t blame religion, I noted a correlation. I actually tend to believe if there is a causation, it’s the other way around. 2) I provided both the example of the U.S. and the world to demonstrate that it is a pattern that is not local. It absolutely is a correlation, and it’s something we need to deal with intellectually, not ignore. 3) Yes, better educated populations tend to have more atheists, and this is not confined to the US. There are always examples of dumb atheists and top-of-the-field Christians or Muslims or Buddhists, but that’s why we have statistics. The statistics say better educated population correlates with more atheists. Again, no causation implied.

        So the correlation between religiosity and societal health is a fact. I’m interested in hearing your causation, or why this is so. Thanks.

        • Mel Wild says:

          So the correlation between religiosity and societal health is a fact.

          There are the “facts” and then there are conclusions drawn from the facts, and they are not necessarily the same thing. So you simply cannot make a sweeping generality that the correlation religiosity and societal health is a fact. Furthermore, you cannot separate poverty and education from religion or non-religion and societal health. I agree, there are extreme cases of religious fundamentalism, which is a very small percentage of the religious population, where societal health is adversely affected. Otherwise this a vacuous assertion, a popular but unfounded atheist myth propagated in popular books and the Internet. And it’s very selective distortion of the facts, ignoring the benefits that true Christian values have provided to society for many centuries.

          But you could more relistically argue that poverty and education is the common denominator to societal health issues. Again, the only possible link to religion would be the extreme fundamentalist variety.

        • I’m sorry, Mel, but the negative correlation between religiosity and societal health IS a fact, it’s the “why” that would be a conclusion. I haven’t made a conclusion, because I didn’t offer why they negatively correlate. I asked you for a possible explanation- for a conclusion.

          Poverty and education are part of societal health, and they also correlate. I didn’t separate them, they’re part of the data.

          If you wish to discuss religious fundamentalism, you’re going to have to define it further for me, please. But honestly, I’m not sure what it has to do with this topic, because religiosity, not religious fundamentalism, was the studied data. I do not have data specific to fundamentalism, and since all religiosity was included in the negative correlation, it won’t tip the scales the other way.

          As I mentioned earlier, I don’t believe that the religion made poverty or low education, I believe it’s the other way around actually. But that’s just my opinion. I’m asking for yours, thanks.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Sorry, but yours is nothing more than a tiresome sweeping generalization. I’m sure it plays well among skeptics and atheists but it is certainly not a meaningful fact. You might as well add all the non-religious in the data. Of course, believe whatever you want. I’m not interested in discussing this kind of shop-worn prejudicial nonsense.

        • Prejudicial? Mel, facts aren’t prejudicial. If I was forcing a conclusion, I suppose you could accuse me of being prejudicial. But I’m not. I’m asking you what you think about the correlation. I’ll post a link to a study so you can take a look. http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2005/2005-11.pdf

        • Mel Wild says:

          Sure, facts aren’t prejudicial, but studies often are. And they’re actually worse because they’re made to sound authoritative. But, as Mark Twain once said, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.

          I read the whole paper. First, I didn’t find any “facts” that pinpoint religion as adversely affecting culture. What I read was pretty vague, pretty much what I said before. Second, he seemed to be equating religion with anti-science, when other studies have found that only about 11% of religion (in America, anyway)is actually anti-science. So, yes, prejudicial. Again, it’s taking a small segment of religion and painting everyone else with the same brush.

          And Paul’s conclusions about the US are misleading. Most European countries don’t have anywhere near the immigration demographics and diversity of cultures, economic variations, etc., that the US has. He’s assuming the US is some simplistic homogenous race of people so he can just conclude America is religious, America has high crime, therefore, religion adversely affects culture. This is just vacuous and nonsensical. I agree with Paul’s detractors.

          Paul authored a paper in 2005 [your link] wherein, he states in the introduction that the paper is “not an attempt to present a definitive study that establishes cause versus effect between religiosity, secularism and societal health”.[24] He concludes that less religious first world societies generally have low social dysfunction. However, many important and unresolved problems were noted by other researchers on his methodology such as lack of clarity in his definitions and concepts of “religion” and “secular”, too much reliance on scatter plots instead of multivariate and multiple regression analysis which single out variables from complex phenomena to better source the probable causes of any correlations, and not indicating the limits of his sources of data in such as the diverse linguistical understanding of “religion” in all cultures in the data used. (Wikipedia) [Emphasis mine]

          This is what I mean by not wanting to waste my time with this kind of stuff. It’s shop-worn and tiresome.

        • John Branyan says:

          I refuse to defend “religion” for exactly the reason you gave Spartan. The term is too vague to be of any use.

          Statements like, “I’m sorry, Mel, but the negative correlation between religiosity and societal health IS a fact” are utterly useless. We haven’t defined “religiosity” and we haven’t defined “societal health”. Atheists love vagueness because they hate thinking.

        • I don’t believe he even tried to pinpoint causation. So, if you’re looking for some it explains why you didn’t find any. The facts are just the statistics, and how he controlled for various factors.
          Not sure if you’ve ever been to Europe, but I lived there for a while and it’s actually pretty diverse. More diverse than most places in the US.
          I’m not sure if I’d say anti-science, but religion is factually a leading opponent to science in the US, most notably on evolution. This is not a small issue, either, as entire states education standards are on the balance of science or junk. Less than half of the population of the US accept evolution is true, completely for religious reasons. That’s not a small segment, that’s a majority.
          And his method may need some tweaking, but what is definitely NOT true is that religion correlates to better societal health. When we have higher abortion rates than any other developed country, and higher religiosity than any other country, then god doesn’t seem to be the answer. If god were the answer, we would have among the lowest. But we don’t.
          You keep saying shop-worn and tiresome like that will make the facts of the statistics go away. But since you seem to not care about it, I guess there’s nothing I can do. Maybe someone else actually wants to lower teen pregnancy rates and abortion rates….

        • Mel Wild says:

          Yes, you are wasting my time. This was vacuous nonsense ten years ago and it’s still nonsense for the reasons I already gave. If you don’t care to actually think but just want to keep pushing your vague, shop-worn, and stereotypical Hitchens-esque atheist straw man fundamentalism, that won’t work here.

        • Mel, just Google religiosity by country, pick any site, and write the list down. Then google societal health by country, pick whichever site you want, and write the list down. It is an inverse correlation. It’s just a fact. I’m not pushing anything, I’m asking for your explanation.

        • John Branyan says:

          I Googled atheism by country and wrote down the list. Then Googled societal health by country and wrote down the list. I found an inverse correlation! It’s just a fact.
          I’m not suggesting anything. Just wondering what the explanation might be.

          It kinda seems like atheism makes countries suck.

        • Mel Wild says:

          It kinda seems like atheism makes countries suck.

          Yup, that’s just a fact, John. I’m not suggesting anything either.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Mel, just Google religiosity by country, pick any site, and write the list down.

          Now we’re using Google for our factual authority? LOL! Just when I thought it couldn’t get any more silly and vapid.

          Since you like studies, here’s one critiquing Paul’s “conceptual ambiguity” titled, “Religiosity, Secularism, and Social Health.”

          Here’s their conclusion:

          “It is the opinion of the authors that once all of the methodological issues are considered, Paul’s findings and conclusions are rendered ineffectual.” (p. 2).

          Or, how about this one: “High Religiosity and Societal Dysfunction in the United States during the First Decade of the Twenty-First Century

          Here’s their conclusion that’s more realistic:

          “What the control variables of education, income and race appear to have in common with religiosity is the relationships of each of the four with personal insecurity.” (p.29)

          There’s more where that came from, debunking Paul and his ilk’s sweeping generalizations, but you get the idea…Of course, I’m not pushing anything, I’m just asking for your explanation.

        • Mel, you are not helping yourself. The best you have done is find research that “only” finds a “mild correlation” between religiosity and societal dysfunction. The second specifically notes a stronger correlation to education, income, and race.

          So religion has somewhere between mildly to slightly making things bad, but racial, economic, and education inequality are better determining factors.

          This is great if we want to figure out how to make things better. We improve education, maybe job programs, and more racial diversity, for example.

          Note: adding religion is not one of the things that will make our society better. And now that you’ve provided the study demonstrating that, I hope you can accept it and internalize it, and work for a better United States.

        • Mel Wild says:

          No, Spartan, you still don’t get it. You said that religion negatively affecting society is a “fact.” So what I’ve done is show that this is clearly NOT a fact. Paul’s assertions, trying to directly link religion to negative factors, are bogus. The REAL correlation is INSECURITY. And the more significant common denominator IS education and income and racial inequality, NOT religion, which was my original point. That’s why people are motivated toward crime and other negative societal factors. Religion can only be seen as ONE way people may cope with their insecurity, but you cannot say their faith is what negatively impacts society. What it may do is inconvenience you because you don’t like what they believe.

          It’s just total ignorance and prejudice to conflate the data and blame it on religion, which you were certainly insinuating by bringing this up here in the first place. And then to say that religion cannot help provide beneficial relief and even a positive impact is an unfounded opinion, not a fact.

          So, yes, we should look for ways to provide security with education, etc., but also stop trying to blame it on religion. THAT is dysfunctional behavior in a pluralistic society.

          Spartan, your certitudes make you just as bad as the most rigid and dogmatic religious fundamentalist, just the atheist version. Like Paul, you make vague sweeping generalities that are meaningless assertions.

        • Mel, do not change my words. That is incredibly dishonest of you. I specifically said religion and poor societal health indicators correlate. THAT is a fact. I did not say religion was the cause. I actually said religion is probably not the cause, but the effect!

          Correct your error, please.

        • John Branyan says:

          Spartan: “…religion is factually a leading opponent to science in the US…”

          LOL!
          Just the facts, Mel. “Religion” is an opponent to “science”. Why aren’t you taking him seriously? This is super-important! The future of the nation is at stake!
          Stop making war against science!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s