Morally Responsible

(Adapted from a response to a comment from Jake)

My morality shifts. When I learn of new evidence, new arguments, new rationale, what I determine to be moral can change. I may have accepted slavery 400 years ago as moral. Maybe because I believed the claims of a prophet or a barbaric, ancient text. Fortunately, now I have better evidence, arguments, and reasons for my position. The “fair test” is against the best evidence and arguments we have. Not against the words of ignorant and ill-informed tribesmen who lived 6000 years ago.

Fortunately, those who claim to follow biblical morality change as well. It is rare to see someone stoned to death for believing differently, or for being gay, or being a disobedient child, or for not having been a virgin on her wedding night.

Ten Christians will interpret The Bible ten different ways. Some will think homosexuality a sin. Some won’t. Some will claim that ‘grace’ is all that is needed for salvation. Some will say “faith without works is dead.” Who is right? Who is wrong? What methodology was used to determine it?

  • Two Christians debating Biblical morality are engaged in a semantic and/or literary debate.
  • Two atheists debating secular morality are engaged in a philosophical and/or scientific debate.

I would argue that the second methodology is a better way to arrive at a useful and meaningful conclusion.

I have read The Bible. Besides the clear endorsement of slavery in the Old Testament, Paul clearly instructs slaves to “obey your earthly masters with respect and fear.” (Eph. 6:5). Though I am sure many Christians have some biblical answer that they feel negates this or explains it, and I am happy to hear it, we would be involved in a semantic or literary debate; not a moral debate. Not a philosophical debate. If what The Bible says is moral, simply by virtue of being in The Bible, then I argue that it plainly endorses slavery and never plainly condemns it. If, however, we want to argue actual morality, I argue that slavery introduces cruelty and misery which is not preferable to health and happiness. It does not benefit the whole of our species. It does not make the survival of the individual nor our species more likely. Which debate is more useful?  A tit-for-tat of scriptural versus, or a debate on what is really right and wrong and why? What is best for individuals and our society? Which position better promotes happiness and well-being?

Christians argue that Biblical morality is superior to secular morality because it is more “concrete.”  It has a “solid” foundation in The Bible and in God.  Looking at history, however, Biblical morality also changes.  Ritual circumcision changed. Consumption of pork changed. Stoning laws changed. Seems that biblical morality lacks solid ground as well.

It was once acceptable to believe that The Earth was the center of the universe. It was always wrong. We now have the evidence to know that model is incorrect.

Slavery was socially acceptable. It was always morally wrong. We now know it. We have the evidence and the rationale of its inherent harm – to the individuals as well as to our society and species.

The US currently has a death penalty for certain crimes. Some people use The Bible to justify it. Others use The Bible to condemn it. Who is right and who is wrong about The Bible’s position is not a moral argument; it is a matter of literary opinion. I think it would be far better to use evidence, reason, and critical thinking to arrive at a superior and more structurally sound conclusion.

Biblical morality is based on an ancient text, changing based on who is doing the reading, who is doing the interpreting, and in which version. Christians claim those morals are based on a universal constant that cannot be reliably demonstrated. My morality, and indeed, the morality of our entire society, is always changing and shifting – usually for the better. From slavery to murder; each previously justified in the minds of believers by The Bible, who now use the same tome to condemn them. Very convenient for believers, but not the steadfast platform for morality they claim it to be.

“I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.” – Robert Heinlein

11 thoughts on “Morally Responsible”

  1. Hey Justin, long time no talk. I’ve been very very busy. I saw this a while ago, and I see that you’ve adapted it into it’s own thread so I will respond here.

    There’s this atheist I’ve been talking to lately, who is very confident that none of us matter more then insects. None of us have value, thus we are equal in our lack of value. In response to this, I asked what he thought of swatting a fly? Isn’t that equal to murder with that logic? He was quite upset at the proposition, but I think it made the contradiction of his worldview apparent to him. He treats people as if they are worthy of respect, and dignity. He treats them with compassion. He treats people as if they matter, which doesn’t make sense if he doesn’t believe they do.

    John 13:35 “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” A Christian is a follower of Christ, somebody who follows Christs teaching can be recognized for the love they have for everyone, and for their following of Christ’s teachings.

    If I told you that I am actually an Atheist, but I do believe in God. What would you say? Would this mean that Atheists actually believe in God? Of course not! A Christian who claims to be a follower of Christ’s teachings, but is not, isn’t a Christian by the same logic. Just like an Atheist who believes in God isn’t really an Atheist, a Christian who purposefully rebels against God’s teachings and laws is not a Christian at all. So when a “Christian” acts with hate, we know they are contradicting what a Christian is by definition.

    Ethics are different from morals. Ethics come from societal values. They belong to a group, or culture. People can choose to be ethical because it’s what society tells them to do. Ethics are guided by legal enforcement.

    Morals on the other hand, are the personal compass we all have of “right and wrong”. They come from within, they are internal. Ethics come externally. We live morally because we believe in something being right or wrong.

    One can live a moral life, while being completely unethical. When people get thrown in jail for trying to help others by sharing the Gospel in foreign countries is a good example. They are doing what they hold to be morally right, but it is against the ethics of the society they are in. Also, on the contrary. Several years ago in this country I could have owned a slave, and would have been an ethical person, no matter what my personal opinion of right or wrong about the situation was. If I saw no issue with slavery, I would have been moral as well. If I saw slavery as a bad thing, but did it anyways, I would have been immoral.

    You claim your morals come from society. It seems you have no distinction between ethics and morality. I do.

    My Morals come from God’s Law which is written in my heart. When people are abused, I’m fully of empathy for the suffering they go through because I know that they matter as image bearers of God. Even though there are those in our society today that preach that the value of humans is equal to the value of insects, and then they would have no issue killing insects, stealing honey from bees, or doing whatever they wish. I feel such a delusion to be a far greater threat then for somebody to follow their own moral compass even when it transcends ethical norms.

    I have MAJOR issues with religions. The power religious authorities hold can become so dangerous. I don’t preach religion, I preach Jesus. The historical Jesus, who’s famous for phrases such as “turn the other cheek” and “do unto others as you’d have done unto you”. I encourage all to cast aside their sin and rebellion against God, and turn to and trust in Jesus who lived, died, and rose from the dead.

  2. Two theists agree on at least one thing; there is a god or gods.

    Two atheists agree on at least one thing; there is no god or gods.

    Two Christians will likely agree on many things and disagree on many things.

    Two Muslims will likely agree on many things and disagree on many things.

    You wanna know what’s wrong with The First Baptist Church? Go ask The Second Baptist Church.

    You wanna know what’s wrong with Orthodox Judaism? Go ask The Reformed Jews.

    My father-in-law calls himself a Christian. He thinks eating pork is immoral. The Pope believes himself to be a Christian, but thinks not attending Mass is immoral. Protestants think The Pope is immoral for worshiping The Mother Mary. You’re all reading the same passages, but coming up with much different answers. Which of you is The True Christian? Whom should I believe and why?

    For a moment, let’s accept your premise. Ethics come externally. Morals come from The Bible.

    Sexual bigotry is moral, but unethical. (1 Cor. 14:34)
    Slavery is moral, but unethical. (Ex. 21:20-21, Col. 4:1, 1 Peter 2:18)
    Ritual murder is moral, but unethical (Ex. 22:18, Lev. 20:9)
    Racial geonocide is moral, but unethical. (Num. 31, 1 Sam. 15)
    Religious genocide is moral, but unethical (Deu. 20)

    The ethical life seems to promote life, liberty, and happiness better than Biblical morals.

    To my question, in my original response, is everything The Bible endorses or commands moral? Is anything that God says moral? Owning another person and forcing that person to labor for you is moral? Murdering disobedient children is moral? Wiping out an entire culture of people because they believe differently than you is moral?

    If God came down and commanded you to kill an innocent, infant child, who was “destined for destruction”, that would make it a moral act?

    I am sure that there is a Biblical explanation for why all of those actions are somehow moral. The Bible is moral because The Bible says The Bible is moral. Plenty of people in the past and today use The Bible to defend, as moral and righteous, slavery. Plenty of people in the past and today use The Bible to defend, as moral and righteous, the subjugation of women, the murder of Jews, the genocide of Muslims, etc. You are all reading the same book claiming that it defines morality, but arrive at a very different answers as to what is and is not moral. Why is that? How can any of you be wrong when you all have scripture to back your claims?

    Muslims have the same confidence and conviction and faith that their book contains the true prophecies and morality of God. That it was written by a prophet at the direction of God. That, just like Paul, Mohamed saw angels who directed his path. They are just as incredulous that you and I don’t see what is obvious and clear to them.

    If a Christian wants to argue with a Muslim, he points to his book and points out passages of seeming prophecy, and of commandments, and of assurances that the book in his hands is The Word of God.

    If a Muslim wants to argue with a Christian, he points to HIS book and points out passages of seeming prophecy, and of commandments, and of assurances that the book in HIS hands is THE WORD OF GOD.

    Can you both be right? Could you both be wrong?

    Cheers,
    Justin

  3. http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=No_true_Scotsman

    “…apologists argue that Christians or Muslims are good people by categorically denying that anyone who does a bad deed is not a “true Christian” or “true Muslim”. The lack of a generally accepted definition of “Christian” or “Muslim” allows apologists to redefine the word to fit their arguments. For this reason, many self-professed believers who commit bad deeds are excluded from the group by apologists.”

  4. I want to address Islam before I address Christianity. Islam is a terrifying religion. I’ve started to study the Islam further, and it’s very very very similar to Mormonism, but with a lot more terrifying hurtful doctrines.

    One thing that I find modern media majorly misrepresents, is the importance of Jihad to a Muslim.

    In the Hadith (the deeds and the saying of Muhammad) we read:

    Allah’s apostle was asked “What is the best deed?” He replied, “To believe in Allah and His Apostle (Muhammad). The questioner then asked, “What is the next (in goodness)? He replied, “To participate in Jihad (religious fighting) in Allah’s Cause.” (Volume 1, Book 2, Number 35)

    Jihad is the second most important deed one can do in Islam. Jihad is considered a pillar of faith by the Kharijites, the greater “struggle” of Jihad refers to personal struggle, but the lesser Jihad is the Holy war against Nonmuslims based solely upon principles of belief. It’s this lesser Jihad that is terrifying. While most Muslims don’t interpret Jihad to be a justification for killing nonmuslims, there is certainly cause for those who believe that to be found in the Quran and the Hadith.

    To a Muslim, they don’t know if they will go to heaven or hell, they believe they’ll be judged by Allah according to their works, and his will and pleasure. Allah arbitrarily decides who will go to heaven. The only way for a man to guarantee his salvation, is to be a martyr for the lesser jihad, or for a woman to have two sons be martyrs for the lesser Jihad.

    “O ye who believe! what is the matter with you, that, when ye are asked to go forth in the cause of Allah, ye cling heavily to the earth? Do ye prefer the life of this world to the Hereafter? But little is the comfort of this life, as compared with the Hereafter. Unless ye go forth, He will punish you with a grievous penalty, and put others in your place; but Him ye would not harm in the least. For Allah hath power over all things,” (Surah 9:38-39).

    See also Surah 61:4, 2:190-193, 4:74-76; and 61:10-12

    Another quote from the Hadith “The Prophet said, “The person who participates in (Holy battles) in Allah’s cause and nothing compels him to do so except belief in Allah and His Apostles, will be recompensed by Allah either with a reward, or booty (if he survives) or will be admitted to Paradise (if he is killed in the battle as a martyr). Had I not found it difficult for my followers, then I would not remain behind any sariya going for Jihad and I would have loved to be martyred in Allah’s cause and then made alive, and then martyred and then made alive, and then again martyred in His cause” (Volume 1, Book 2, Number 35).

    I would find that a Muslim who is concerned for their salvation, and wants to ensure they will be with Allah in paradise, will commit Jihad. Just like the coward Sayfullo Saipov who just about a week ago drove his truck through a crowd of pedestrians and cyclists, killing 8, and wounding nearly a dozen. All while saying “Allah Akbar” (Allah is the greatest). A Muslim that believes the Hadith, and the Quran, I think would totally believe they are justified in killing non-muslims. Muslims in the united states usually are more secular in their belief, and don’t believe in killing non-muslims as I’ve mentioned.

    There have been 1763 notable wars in the history of mankind, of those, 123 have been of religious cause according to notable commentators such as Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod. Also Bruce Sheiman, an outspoken atheist. Of those 123, I’ve read that well over half are from Islam. I’m not sure which wars Charles Phillips and Alan Axelod count as significant, but for a complete list of the wars and battles of Islam, you can read about them here:
    http://materiaislamica.com/index.php/List_of_Wars_in_Pax_Islamic_History_(c._624%E2%80%94c._1999)

    If I were to tell you that I am an atheist that believes in God, what would you say?

    Do words have meaning? Is it an arbitrary system that’s up to each individual, or would you tell me I’m wrong if I tell you that I’m an Atheist who believes in God.

    The difference between “Islamic extremists” compared to other religious extremists, is that they don’t have to go far to justify their terrorist actions.

  5. I’m familiar with the No True Scotsman fallacy, it involves redefining the definition of a group of people to exclude certain people. A Christian as a noun, according to the dictionary is “a person who has received Christian baptism or is a believer in Jesus Christ and his teachings” Would you disagree?

    There are people who profess to be Christian, but have deviated from the teachings of Jesus Christ. Do you think it’s right for them to still be called Christians? I know I’ve just said it, but if I told you I was an Atheist who believes in God, what would you say? Am I wrong? Have I deviated from the definition of an Atheist? Would you disagree with me calling myself that?

    How do we know and define the teachings of Jesus Christ? They are contained in the gospels in the Bible.

    I will condemn a Christian, who professes to be a follower of Christ, but doesn’t adhere to his teachings. If I profess to be an Atheist that believes in God from here on out, what would you think of that? Would I belong among the ranks of other exmormon atheists? Or would you see it as ridiculous and false?

    If a Mormon is to tell me that Christ is the brother of Lucifer, and the spirit child of Elohim and one of his many goddess wives. I would tell them that we believe in a different Christ. I actually have spent some time standing outside the Meridian Temple (I live in Meridian) as people come for the temple open house. That’s what I tell them. I ask them who Christ is, and we don’t believe in the same Christ. I believe in the Christ of the Bible who is the eternal creator, who created all things both visible and invisible. They don’t. Just like an Atheist who believes in God. They use the same word, but they use it wrong.

    To modern Christianity, there is a unity of “essential” doctrines. Then there are “nonessentials” which people are allowed to disagree with. The essentials are defined in the Bible to be…

    1. The deity of Christ
    2. Salvation by Grace
    3. The resurrection of Christ
    4. The Gospel
    5. Monotheism

    I want you to know, that should you ask me to, I can provide a bomb of Bible verses about these essentials. They are all over the Bible, and they are what unifies Christians. The “Christians” that have deviated from these essentials are referred to as “the cults”. Here are some examples…

    1. Mormons deny the deity of Christ as an eternal God, they believe he was created. Islam denies the deity of Christ, Jehovah’s witnesses change him to an angel, and not God, etc.

    2. Mormons deny salvation by Grace through faith alone as outlined in the Bible “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
    Mormons believe that “All mankind may be saved through the atonement of Jesus Christ BY OBEDIANCE TO THE LAWS AND ORDINANCES OF THE GOSPEL” They believe they are saved by Grace, AFTER all they can do. Which is false teaching and contradicts almost every chapter of Romans, much of Ephesians, and Galations, and many other books of the Bible.

    I think every cult denies this. Including Roman Catholicism, which is not Christian. They hold the Roman tradition to be equal to the Bible, and when conflict arises due to this division, they will much like Mormonism, choose tradition over the Bible. They deny salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ alone.

    3. Mormons accept this doctrine, but Islam does not. (Islam regards Jesus to have been a prophet).

    4. The Gospel (Good News) can be defined many ways, but I think it’d be a fair summary to say “Jesus is God in flesh, who died for sins, rose from the dead, and freely gives the gift of eternal life to those who believe.” (based on 1 Cor. 15:1-4 ,John 1:1, 12, 14; 10:30-33; 20:28; Col. 2:9; and Rom. 10:9-10) Mormons, Jehovahs Witnesses, Islam, you name it. Ever modern cult denies.

    5. Monotheism is very clearly taught in the Bible, and is based on Exodus 20:3; Isaiah 43:10; 44:6, 8. Mormonism denies monotheism (or at least Mormon scripture, and prophets have).

    As a Christian, I reject people who falsely call themselves Christians. That’s why Mormon’s get so much backlash when they call themselves Christian, because they believe in a totally different theology, God, path to salvation, etc.

    I can go to a baptist, or methodist, or presbyterian church, and they may disagree on how baptism should be done, and what the church is run, but they won’t disagree on who Christ is, how we are saved, the resurrection, the Gospel, or Monotheism. Paul says it’s okay to disagree on the non-essentials. He talks about it in Romans 14:1-6:
    “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.
    2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.
    3Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.
    4Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
    5One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.
    6The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.”

    Your father in law can think eating pork is immoral all he wants, if he thinks it’s immoral, he shouldn’t do it. I would echo the words of Paul “14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.”

    The pope I would disagree with when he calls himself a Christian, because he believes in the traditions of men over the Bible, holds to the worshiping of idols that led to the reformation, and believes that the catholic sacraments are required for salvation (even though some Catholics will try and say that they aren’t, you can read in catholic literature where they spell it out).

    Who should you believe and why? Well, as an exmormon, I have major problems with religions and religious traditions. I study my Bible daily, and would encourage you to do the same. I’m not going to tell you to trust in anyone besides Jesus, you already know of a man with a warped ideology who created a theology which makes billions of dollars. If you were to give God another chance, would you place man in the same regard after realizing Mormonism was a lie? I know I won’t. There is one mediator between God and man, and that’s the Man Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5)

    As a nonbeliever, I could see why it’s confusing. As a Mormon, I thought of all denominations of Christianity as being like Mormonism, where they follow the ideology of a single man. That’s not the case.

    Sexual Bigotry is not moral

    About your specific verse, I’ll quote from my friend, Matt Slick. Who is the CARM radio show host and founder of the CARM ministry and website.

    “1 Corinthians 14:34, “Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says.”
    The cultural context is important because it sheds light on the meaning of the text. In the culture of that day, men and women had certain social orders. Women were dependent upon their husbands for protection and provision, and their speaking in the context of the church, where male and females were separated, would be an act of public independence demonstrating a rebellion against the social norms. Furthermore, when it says “let them subject themselves,” we must understand that subjection is voluntary. It is not stated that they are to obey – which is mandatory. Rather, they are told to “subject themselves.” Women who chose to do that were revered in that culture.
    Finally, if the critic is not satisfied with this explanation, so be it. But what gives him the right to assert that another culture’s norms are not as good as his own? If he says it’s because we are more modern, then he would be saying because our culture is newer, it is better. This, of course, is not logically true.”

    About Slavery, I’ll quote from CARM again, because there is nothing that I have to add. Matt does his research.

    The Bible acknowledged the slave’s status as the property of the master (Ex. 21:21; Lev. 25:46).
    The Bible restricted the master’s power over the slave. (Ex. 21:20)
    The slave was a member of the master’s household (Lev. 22:11).
    The slave was required to rest on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:10; Deut. 5:14).
    The slave was required to participate in religious observances (Gen. 17:13; Exodus 12:44; Lev. 22:11).
    The Bible prohibited extradition of slaves and granted them asylum (Deut. 23:16-17).
    The servitude of a Hebrew debt-slave was limited to six years (Ex. 21:2; Deut. 15:12).
    When a slave was freed, he was to receive gifts that enabled him to survive economically (Deut. 15:14).

    So if you are to try and draw a comparison to slavery in the U.S. where it was racially based, and people were dehumanized, you have to understand that it’s not even the same thing. Any Israelite could become a slave, an Israelite would go bankrupt, and they’d sell themselves as a slave much like an indentured servant. They could only serve up to 6 years, and then when he was freed, he was given gifts to help him make it on his own. Doctors would do this. It wasn’t based on race, or social status.

    If a “christian” takes verses out of context and makes up a bunch of baloney and people follow him, you have another type of Joseph Smith figure.

    Capital Crime

    Believe it or not, but just like in every civilization ever, the Israelites had a system of Capital Crime. Where certain crimes as defined in their Law, would be punished with death. To say that we are ancient Israelites, and that their judicial system should be our moral system isn’t even close to a good understanding of the context of those chapters, or the volume of scriptures. Who honestly believes this stuff you’re teaching? It’s out of context proof texting that contradicts so much of the rest of the body of scriptures. It makes me cringe, are you just looking for verses to take out of context? Or parroting atheists who have done that?

    In our society, it is ethical for some crimes to have a death penalty. You may disagree morally, but it’s ethical. When we look at the judicial system of the ancient Israelites, We see the ethics of their society and culture, which are very different from ours. In fact, their judicial system was focused on the victim, not the perpetrator. If a woman was raped, that man would be killed. Should the woman desire that the man is shown mercy, that’s her call. Because the judicial system was about making restitution for the victim, not punishing the perpetrator. If she didn’t want for him to be executed, she had a huge say. If somebody stole something, and the victim wanted them to go free, they had that option, it was about making things right for the victim.

    I think our judicial system would benefit from more of a focus on the victim. Rapists will be back on the street in a manner of years. Mormon bishops who raped women, will be back in the ward. I’ve heard far too many stories of this, and it’s horrible for those women. I digress… To take those verses horribly out of context to suggest they are moral commandments, and not ethical laws is to not have read any of the context surrounding them or studied anything about the Bible.

    Racial Genocide? It was ethical for America to drop to atomic bombs on Japan as an act of war. We drop bombs on middle easterners all the time. If you’re going to tell me that you live in a society where it’s not okay to kill innocent women and children because of their nationality, as an act of war, I’m going to point you to where we did exactly that not even 100 years ago. We obliterated people! Imprinting their shadows on the walls of buildings! That’s the society, country, and culture you live in. What grounds do you say it was unethical for America to go to war, and to commit actions of war?

    The Bible isn’t making a moral argument here even, are we Israelites? Or was God leading his people into war against a people that had wronged his nation? If you don’t read Numbers 22-25, and take those verses and chapters totally out of context, how would you know why they went to war in chapter 31? If you don’t read history before 1 Kings chapter 15, or understand the narrative of the book, and you just take some chapters out of context, of course it could leave you confused.

    I’d recommend you get a Bible without verses. A “readers” bible. That way you cannot fall prey to taking verses out of context of the chapter.

    Again, for Deuteronomy 20. This explains the ethics of the Israelites, how they AS A NATION were to conduct WAR. This doesn’t refer to how a Gentile like you or me, as an individual should conduct daily life. What are your thoughts on the War in Iraq, and the Vietnam war? What do you think of the atomic bomb that your country dropped? That is the ethical system you have to compare it to. We retaliated against Japan with so much force, that we annihilated innocent civilians. The bodies were gone, cities were leveled. This is the country you live in. This is the ethical system of our country my friend.

    The ethics of our country have result in the deaths of so many innocent women and children who did nothing more then live in the “wrong” country. The “ethical” life, would allow for you to go out and commit horrible acts of war against enemies of our nation.

    Here’s what I can, and do apply to my life from the Bible. These are teachings that were given to the early christian church (and I’m a christian, so it all applies directly)

    Galations 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
    Acts 10:34 “So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality,”
    Romans 10:12 “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.”
    Colossians 3:9-11 “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.”
    Jesus taught;
    Luke 6:31 “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”
    John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

    Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
    37And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
    38This is the great and first commandment.
    39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
    40On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.””

    When Christians follow those two commandments, they follow ALL the Law, and the Prophets (which is the Old Testament). Do you disagree?

    As a Christian, I have a basis to say that people have morals. God gives us all value. If you are nothing more then the product of a cosmically indifferent universe, and an accident of nature that was somehow created despite the amazingly low statistical probability of your existence, where do people get “value”. Upon what basis would you decided to treat people as if they have value? I certainly know that you are a good man, with a good head on your shoulders and a kind heart. I bet you’re a great father to. You are the nicest, most respectful, intelligent atheist I have ever spoken to. But what is your justification for treating people as if they matter? I’m assuming that you believe people do, based on your respectful behavior.

    If I were to argue with a scholarly Muslim, I would point them to the Word of God yes, but I would also teach them about the historical Jesus. The Jesus that even anti-christian ancient historians, scholars, and commentators wrote about. Writers such as Thallus, Tacitus, Mara Bar-Serapion, Phlegon, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, Lucian of Samosata, Celsus, and others. A muslim already knows of Jesus, I’d have to show them the historical Jesus, and the Jesus of the Bible compared to the Jesus of the Quran. No matter what Muslim I’d talk to, I’d tell them of the grace and mercy that comes through faith in Jesus Christ apart from any works of the law. Which as a Muslim, it’s “whatever Allah wills”. Allah is not just in the way the God of the Bible is. Allah judges arbitrarily. I would teach them of the Justice of God, and the mercy of Christ’s work. I would tell them that “Isa” is God.

    If you google it, you’ll be amazed at the stories of Muslims who leave Islam, and turn to Christ. There are so many stories of former ISIS members who were going to Jihad, who have been saved and come to Christ. Persecution.com has a free newsletter full of these stories, they help Christians provide aid to these Christian converts in Muslim countries who are often killed and murdered for their faith.

    I care less about who is right and wrong, then about what is right and wrong. I’ve been talking to way too many atheists who deny the historical Jesus, and say that “Tacitus” wasn’t a valid historian XD Which is just so absurd. They believe whatever they want to believe, despite the facts. It’s craziness.

    1. I don’t really have any response to your criticism of Islam, as you are using your book and your interpretation of the unsubstantiated evidence by which to judge it. I am sickened when I read of The Siege of Baghdad and the loss of knowledge caused by it, caused by people who claim a belief in God and an irrational belief in The Qu’ran. I am also sickened when I read of The Crusades, The Inquisition(s), the purge of Jews from Spain, the purge of Jews from England, The Holocaust(s) (Huguenots, Jews, gypsies, etc), the “troubles” in Ireland, all caused by people professing a belief in God and Jesus and an irrational belief in The Bible. The score of which religion is “worse” has zero to do with which is reasonable and based on evidence and reality.

      I judge Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, similarly; all lack any credible evidence to back their various claims of truthfulness or morality. You cite Qu’ranic literature as being immoral just as I did for The Bible. You point to a religious drive for war as troubling; as did I (Midianites, etc). I wonder how a true-believing Muslim would respond? Do you suppose she/he would point to other scriptures that, for some in-obvious reason overrides the other, less explicable scripture?

      Yes words have meaning and context. I hate using dictionary arguments, but let’s look for a moment:

      atheist
      noun athe·ist \ ˈā-thē-ist \ : a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or any gods

      The word ‘atheist’ is clearly and simply defined. You can be an atheist and believe in big-foot, or colloidal silver, or the tooth-fairy, and any other supernatural nonsense, but you can’t believe in a god or gods. It defines dis-belief in one single concept. The word defines one simple thing. The individual who calls themselves an atheist who believes in god(s) is not an atheist by a simple definition.

      Me: “Are you an atheist?”
      Bob: “I don’t know.”
      Me: “Do you believe in a god or gods?”
      Bob: “No.”
      Me: “You are an atheist.”
      Jenny: “Yes.”
      Me: “You are not an atheist.”
      Sara: “Maybe.”
      Me: “You are not an atheist.”

      Christian
      noun Chris·tian \ ˈkris-chən , ˈkrish- \ : one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ

      The Pope is Christian, Fred Phelps is/was Christian, my father-in-law is Christian, all Mormons are Christian, all Catholics are Christian, all Baptists are Christian, all Lutherans are Christian. You claim they are not, but you can’t prove they are not. They might claim that you are not, but they could not prove it. Each of you can merely appeal to a literary interpretation of what each of you claim defines Christian behavior and belief.

      Me: “Are you a Christian.”
      Bob: “Yes.”
      Jenny: “Yes.”
      Bob: “No you’re not. You eat pork and believe women can be pastors.”
      Jenny: “Yes I am. God doesn’t care what we eat, and Paul was only a bigoted, sexist prophet of his day. You’re not a Christian because you don’t love everyone.”
      Bob: “It’s not just Paul, The Old Testament also defines the role of a woman as subservient to man. And I don’t have to love everyone. God has commanded us to stone sinners and non-believers.”
      Jenny: “But The Old Testament isn’t that relevant anymore. Jesus came and fulfilled and change the law. He commanded us to love one another.”
      Bob: “Jesus said he came to fulfill the law, not to change it.”

      …ad nasueum…

      Who is right? Who is wrong? How am I to know the difference? If there is some grand arbiter of Biblical meaning, I have not met Him/Her and don’t expect to.

      Who cares if slavery is racially driven or not? Is it moral/ethical to own a human being? Black, brown, Jewish or otherwise? To force a person to work for you without his/her consent? Jewish slaves only had to endure slavery for six years – unless you gave him a wife – then you owned him forever. But, if you kidnapped or bought a person from a nearby settlement that was not Jewish, you could just own him, force him to do work against his will, and beat him relentlessly (so long as the beating was not life-threatening). Biblical morality is truly immoral.

      “If a ‘christian’ takes verses out of context and makes up a bunch of baloney and people follow him, you have another type of Joseph Smith figure.”

      Therein lies a problem. I, and other religious skeptics, don’t know how we are to spot the difference. All we have in your assertion that your interpretation is the “right” interpretation. Should I believe your interpretation, or The Pope’s, or Franklin Graham’s, or my father-in-law’s, or Fred Phelps’, or William Lane Craig’s, or Frank Turek’s, or Pat Robertson’s, or Thomas Monson’s, or Joel Osteen’s, or Rick Warren’s, or Jesse Jackson’s, or Bernice King’s, etc.? What evidence do you have that would outweigh whatever they might provide in response?

      “Who honestly believes this stuff you’re teaching?”

      First, I ain’t teaching nuthin’. I’m simply citing what I see as Biblical immorality. Second, who believes this?

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2014/05/01/why-christians-should-support-the-death-penalty/
      http://www.christianity.com/bible/bible-study-tips/did-jesus-support-capital-punishment-11575216.html

      I’m not sure that either of them fit your particular definition of “Christian”, but again, I am not convinced who to believe is the true Christian.

      “In our society, it is ethical for some crimes to have a death penalty.”

      I do disagree; It is currently legal, but I believe that capital punishment is severely unethical. Others agree. Others believe differently. I believe my reasons are based on evidence and logic and reason; not on archaic text that no one can seem to agree on. We can certainly have an ethical and moral debate on that subject, but pointing to The Bible will not convince me. I used to believe differently. I may believe differently tomorrow if presented with opposing evidence, logic, and reason.

      (Did you really just accuse me of ‘parroting’ other atheists after you just copy-and-pasted two arguments from CARM?)

      The benefits of not having a black-and-white worldview is that there are gray areas. It also makes you think a great deal and to be less than confident; being able to change one’s mind when presented with new information. Do I see the attack on Hiroshima as unethical? Personally, no. Do I see the attack on Nagasaki as unethical? Personally, yes. Do I think the war on Afghanistan was unethical? Yes. Iraq? Yes. Germany in WWII? No. Assassination in general? Yes. Assassination of Mr. Bin Laden? No. I can give you arguments for why I think all of those things, and I am willing to change my mind on each of them if presented with opposing evidence, logic, and reason.

      At your suggestion, I read the whole of Leviticus 25 once again, without verse delimiters. I cannot see how it is out of context to say that The Bible endorses, condones, and encourages the buying, selling, and enslavement of human beings (Israelites partially excepted).

      As you suggested, I read the whole of Deuteronomy 21 once again, without verse delimiters. I cannot see how it is out of context to say that The Bible endorses, condones, and commands the murder of disobedient and rebellious children.

      “When Christians follow those two commandments, they follow ALL the Law, and the Prophets (which is the Old Testament). Do you disagree?”

      You have previously claimed that Muslims and others who do not have the chance, option, or ability to learn of Christianity are “made for destruction”, which seems to contradict Romans 10:12, in my interpretation, as well as your latter assertion that “God gives us all value.” But, again, we’re engaged in a literary debate; I don’t know what “ALL the Law” means since I don’t know which Christian interpretation is the true Christian interpretation.

      People have value because we give ourselves value. We are social creatures who depend on one another. Some people don’t respect that value. They are often criminals who are punished for not respecting that value. Again I say, if the only reason you value people is because a translation of a translation of an ancient text written by an ancient people tells you that you should, please keep believing it.

      You would tell this supposed Muslim that “Isa” is God. You would provide no rational and reasonable evidence. In response, he might tell you that God is Allah and that Mohamed is THE prophet. He would provide no rational nor reasonable evidence. Would you believe him? I believe we already know the answer.

      I would not be amazed by stories of Muslims leaving Islam and turning to Christ anymore than I was moved by the hundreds of stories I have heard of Muslims, or Japanese, or South Americans, or Catholics, or Baptists, or atheists turning to Mormonism. They all sound the same to me. They all seem irrational.

      Regardless of whether a historical Jesus existed, it doesn’t affect my belief in a god, nor my severe skepticism for anything supernatural or magical. Until someone presents reliable, verifiable, and falsifiable evidence, I will continue to withhold my belief and continue striving to live an ethical, decidedly non-biblical life.

      Cheers,
      Justin

  6. Jake, I have a further question for you. You are decidedly convinced that Jesus existed. For the most part I would agree, but I still remain somewhat skeptical.

    The Exodus is another matter. I am largely convinced it never occurred. Are you convinced of the historical accuracy of this Biblical account? Despite the severe (mayhaps complete) absence of evidence for Jews in Egypt, Jewish slaves building of The Pyramids, their subsequent escape and wandering in the desert? Despite the vast consensus amongst archaeologists that it likely never happened?

    Despite attempts by a number of biblical archaeologists — and an even larger number of amateur enthusiasts — over the years, credible direct archaeological evidence for the Exodus has yet to be found.

    While it can be argued that such evidence would be difficult to find, since nomads generally do not leave behind permanent installations, archaeologists have discovered and excavated nomadic emplacements from other periods in the Sinai desert.

    So if there were archaeological remains to be found from the Exodus, one would have expected them to be found by now. And yet, thus far there is no trace of the biblical “600,000 men on foot, besides children” plus “a mixed crowd…and live stock in great numbers” (Exod. 12:37-38) who wandered for forty years in the desert. – Eric H Cline, Ph.d, Ancient History

    Do you feel that you apply the same level of skepticism to biblical historical claims that you now do to The Book of Mormon historical claims we discussed early in our conversation? The existence of Zarahemla, new-world horses, chariots, etc.? Do you seek out independent, scientific sources for your evidence and resources alongside the apologists like CARM?

    Cheers,
    Justin

    1. Denying the existence of Jesus is like denying Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great did things, and people wrote about it. That’s how we know about him and what he did. Jesus did things, and people wrote about it. I don’t take on blind faith the claims of the Bible, or use it alone to validate the existence of Jesus. If you study the history of Jesus, and what historians said, you might be shocked. Even looking only at the hostile anti christian sources.

      I’ve heard so many differing thoughts on Christopher Columbus throughout the years. Growing up, I was taught he was an honorable and brave role model. Recently I heard that he was a rapist and mass murderer who took many slaves, I heard that he never set foot on modern America and went to what is modern Cuba instead, I heard that Washington Irving (Legend of Sleepy Hollow) made up the story of Christopher Columbus based loosely upon what actually happened, and it sold and people have believed it. I don’t know what to believe about him anymore XD

      Seeing as it’s almost Thanksgiving, maybe I should look into it 😉 I’ve actually read what ancient historians have said about Jesus though. He was an important figure of history, and the great Roman authors and historians wrote about him. I don’t blame you for being confused about it though, just like I am about Columbus.

      But as I said earlier, it seems you have a philosophically non-falsefiable position. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’ve ruled out the possibility of Jesus rising from the dead, and no evidence could convince you otherwise. I don’t think it’s a consistent worldview, or one that you can ultimately provide logical justifications for.

      I hope that makes sense. That’s why I left the philosophical questions I did in the last comment.

      The Exodus history is a great question, and to be totally honest with you, I’m slightly in-between sides of “Literal Torah” and “Figurative”. I lean STRONGLY towards literal though, but I’ve not even been ExMormon for a year, so I’ve still got a lot of reading to do. I’ve read a lot of differing opinions and thoughts on the subject. One idea is that it’s hard to find the evidence as you suggested, but I find this to be a weak argument.

      What I do find compelling, is that lack of evidence doesn’t mean there wasn’t an exodus. Lack of evidence doesn’t mean there was either, just because I lack evidence of a spaghetti monster orbiting Pluto, doesn’t mean there is one. Nor does the lack of evidence mean there isn’t one. Without evidence, it’s a gray area. I think it’s unlikely there is one though.

      There has not been evidence to COUNTER the account of the Exodus. It’s a gray area. Considering that, I don’t think it’s safe to say it did or did not happen based solely upon external evidence. If there was archeological evidence, it would be foolish to deny it, but the lack of it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Honestly I want to do more study into this topic. I’ve seen there is a documentary called “Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus”, I’m guessing it’s biased, but I do want to see what evidence they present for the Exodus in it. The trailer looks really good. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rESYeIRKYMk

      On CARM it talks about how Mt. Sinai might not be where we have traditionally thought it to be. Galatians 4:25 says it’s in Arabia, instead of the traditionally accepted Sinai peninsula. In the book (which I regrettably have not yet read) “In search of the Mountain of God” by Bob Cornuke and David Halbrook, they “uncover evidence” of an alternative site where the real Mt. Sinai might be. But I don’t think it’s been verified by any archeologists. Bob Cornuke was a police officer, swat team member, and crime scene investigator in southern california, and is president of “BASE” (Bible Archeology Search and Exploration). So I don’t rule him out as purely speculative, biased, and uncredible. I don’t know what all the evidence is though, or how that theory would ultimately work.

      I think I am applying equal skepticism, and not the weak nonsense I threw at you about mormonism, such as the Macuahuitl (which a Mormon just presented to me the other day, even though it doesn’t fit the timeline of Ether, or match the description of the swords that Nephi made in 2 Nephi). He also threw the Equus occidentalis at me (Ice age horse which died off before humans came to the American continent). I laughed, because he sounded so much like I used to. Desperately trying to make the little evidence there was bend and twist to support what he wanted to believe.

      I do think the Exodus happened. The current commonly accepted Egyptian Chronology may be wrong, and there are many scholars who have written critical articles saying they doubt the timeline’s accuracy.

      The biblical chronology could be wrong, the genealogies could have been misunderstood and the approximated dates might be wrong.

      The location of Mt. Sinai could be in Arabia instead of the Sinai Peninsula, we could have been looking the wrong places.

      There is more to be found. In 2005 and 2008, we found more things at the Valley of the Kings (where we found King Tut’s tomb). The Valley of the Kings isn’t a new site, we’ve known about it for over 100 years, but yet we still have found new things fairly recently.

      About the 10 Plagues, the Ipuwer Papyrus (circa 1446 BC) an ancient egyptian document seemingly confirms the 1st, 5th, 7th, 9th, and 10th plagues. David Rohl, a non-christian egyptologist, has written many books on the historicity of the Bible. He seems to believe it was accurate about these accounts, and I’ve heard that he talks about Egyptian “plague pits” that are full of skeletons. In 2015 he wrote “Exodus: Myth or History?” which I regrettably have not read yet but want to.

      I don’t have all the answers yet, but I love studying this stuff. What do you think? Do I apply an appropriate amount of skepticism and honesty in regards to these issues?

      1. As I mentioned in a previous discussion, there were many other “messiahs” at the time of Jesus – I specifically mentioned Appolonius of Tyanna; a man known from documentary evidence, much like Jesus, who was born through miraculous means, preformed miracles, gathered disciples, and had followers who wrote about him later.

        Josephus wrote about Jesus 90+ years after his birth; approx 50-60 years after his death. Tacitus wrote about him even later. Consider for a moment that, sure, there was a man/philosopher/teacher named Jesus, but could the “miraculous” Jesus of The Bible be a composite character of several different ‘messiahs’? Or exaggerated and built up by His devoted followers? Am I convinced of that? No. Do I think it a possibility? Sure. Again, I remain unconvinced that there is any certain answer until better evidence is provided. I merely bring this up as a demonstration that there is room for severely doubting the traditional, Biblical narrative and anything/everything we think we know about ‘Jesus.’

        Christopher Columbus is an excellent example of history vs. legend. (BTW: Recommend a great book called ‘Lies My Teacher Told Me’ by James Loewen) When I was growing up, like you, I was taught about Columbus as if he were a hero. Someone to be revered. Now, learning about the reality of what he did, I see him as a abominable villain. My views of the biblical God evolved somewhat similarly.

        “What I do find compelling, is that lack of evidence doesn’t mean there wasn’t an exodus. Lack of evidence doesn’t mean there was either, just because I lack evidence of a spaghetti monster orbiting Pluto, doesn’t mean there is one. Nor does the lack of evidence mean there isn’t one. Without evidence, it’s a gray area. I think it’s unlikely there is one though.”

        Just as the non-existence of Zarahemla doesn’t prove that Zarahemla never existed, neither does it give you any reason to believe it. Just as the lack of evidence for The Exodus doesn’t prove that The Exodus never happened, neither does it give you any reason to believe it. We shouldn’t believe in The FSM orbiting Pluto, or Russell’s teapot, or Invisible Pink Unicorns, or anything else until we have sufficient evidence; not before.

        As to the specific examples to which you point, David Rohl’s theories don’t seem to have been accepted by the majority of archaeologists and Egyptologists. And just reading the Wikipedia article on the Ipuwer Papyrus, it too seems to be used by apologists to try and verify Exodus, but that’s only if contradictory information is ignored. I’m happy to learn more than from a Wikipedia article if you have a good, non-apologist link or text.

        To beat the dead horse further: the time to believe something is after you have evidence, not before.

        And the more you want something to be true, the more skeptical you should be.

        Cheers,
        Justin

  7. About Islam, when there is a conflict of doctrine, the last Surah’s take precedence over the first. They are not in Chronological order, they are arranged from biggest Surah, to smallest. Surah 9, (Al-Taubah, The Repentance) is Surah 113 of 114. It’s the second to last Surah, so it holds more weight than anything said before it. If you think Islam is a peaceful religion, read Surah 9. It teaches how and why to fight unbelievers, it’s pretty disturbing stuff.

    I’m not using “my book” and my “interpretation of the unsubstantiated evidence… to judge it”. I’m using their book. God’s law is written in your heart, and you know it’s bad just as I do.

    Catholicism is not Christian, they are mixed with paganism, they hold the words of their leaders “equal” to scripture, but when there is conflict, the words of their leaders always seem to take precedence, just like mormonism… They worship idols, and the virgin mary. They deny sola fide, they are plagued with corrupt leaders and a corrupt history just as mormonism is. I look at the Crusades, and I thank God the reformation happened.

    What I would call a “cult”, changes or adds to the canon of scripture, changes the deity of Christ (which catholics are the only cult to not do that), changes how we are reconciled to God, and is usually full of corrupt leadership and “authority” that is plain for the outside world to see. Just as mormonism is. Same with Jehovah’s witnesses, and same with Catholicism.

    When you cite Bible literature for being immoral, you take it out of context of the surrounding verses, chapter, book of scripture, and the Bible as a whole (If I remember correctly, feel free to correct me If I’m wrong). When I cite the Quran, I know the context. Any Islamic scholar would agree that they last Surah’s hold more weight then the first ones. Surah 9 can’t really be worked around…

    God commanded his nation of Israel to war against the Midiniates who wronged the people. Our secular government goes to war, and annihilated innocent men, women, and children in Japan. For some people, nothing but a shadow was left. Why did we annhilate them? Because they just happened to belong to the wrong nation. I don’t think there is a fair argument that the NATION of Israel going to war is any less moral than our increasingly secular society going to war. Do you disagree? But I have a reason to complain about image bearers of God being murdered. If we are mere stardust in a cosmically indifferent universe, what is your basis to say what stardust should survive, and which should be destroyed?

    So when I tell you that I’m an atheist who does believe in God, and I’ve changed the definition to allow belief in God, what do you say? Will you say “No true atheist can believe in God”!? When people don’t conform to a unified definition, you run into trouble. Using your definition (the dictionary one) you know I can’t be an atheist and believe in God. But when I subjectively decide it means something else and that I am actually an atheist, how do you respond?

    That’s how it is with “Christians” who call themselves that in error. Sure they can call themselves that, but they use a different definition of Christ’s teachings. If one professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ, but rejects many of his teachings in favor of their religious tradition (Mormons, the Pope, Catholics) then I will say otherwise. Mormons don’t even believe in the same Jesus. Their Jesus was a created being who was the product of Elohim and one of his Goddess wives, who wasn’t eternally God and grew in perfection. Jesus calls himself “I Am”. The hebrew God, which doesn’t work if he wasn’t eternally God (ehyeh asher ehyeh) (hayah means existed in Hebrew, ehyeh is the first person singular imperfect form, God has existed forever) They disagree with Jesus and follow what Joseph Smith taught instead. Catholics disagree with Jesus and go with past leaders and tradition instead.

    Is there right and wrong? When I tell you I’m an atheist, and atheist means “Skeptical person”, do you think the dictionary definition and latin origins of the word form a more correct understanding? Would you say that I am “wrong” when I use a different definition? When Mormons and Catholics misquote Jesus to support their faith tradition, I have a problem with that too. I’m not any denomination, or a part of any faith tradition. As I study the Bible, I follow it with no loyalty to a faith tradition. My loyalty is to Jesus and His Word in the Bible, their loyalty is divided among their faith tradition, the Bible, additional “scripture” (apocrypha, BoM, etc), and “Jesus”. and the interpretation of the Bible their faith tradition puts on the Bible. Is there a correct interpretation? I think so. I believe truth exists and everything isn’t subjective. Would you agree?

    This is why I stood outside the Meridian Temple telling Mormons that Mormonism isn’t Christian because it teaches a different Christ than the Biblical one. This is why I debate with Catholics about Catholicism vs christianity online. I quote from Jesus (providing context, etc), and they disagree. I see it everyday of my life. I can prove if somebody is a Christian by quoting what Jesus taught (in context) and if they reject it, it’s clear they don’t follow what he taught. Can Mormons be Christian? Sure, if they don’t really believe mormon theology. Same with Catholics. I can’t say all Mormons aren’t Christian, but I don’t know how you could be mormon and Christian. Mormonism isn’t Christian, but a Mormon could potentially be. You have to reject so much of what Joseph Smith taught, and what you read in the D&C and Pearl of Great price to be Christian though.

    I’m not going to comment on your representation of 2 Christians… There are way too many issues with the whole thing, it’s very off base. Perhaps this is the subjective nonsense you hear, I’m very sorry if it is, I’d encourage you, and them, to study what the Bible says about the relationship between the Old and New Testament. I don’t think Christians read the Bible enough to know it for themselves, and that really bothers me. I’m friends with Bible answer man Matt Slick, and listen to most of his radio shows, where people call and ask questions. He has a website that provides answers. Can he be wrong? Absolutely! Does he have any authority to which he claims, or to which we should respect? No, but he’s been studying the stuff for over 30 years and has a master’s degree. People call, and he quotes from the Bible to answer their questions. He has many social quirks, but has what I would call a gifted mind, because I don’t know how he keeps as much info as he does in it 😉

    “Who is right? Who is wrong? How am I to know the difference? If there is some grand arbiter of Biblical meaning, I have not met Him/Her and don’t expect to.” Well, as an atheist, do you believe there is universal truth? Or is everything subjective? I believe there is an ultimate right or wrong whether I know it or not. How do you know the difference? Well, if I tell you the earth is flat, and other people say it’s round, how do you know the difference? Who is right, and who is wrong? How do you decide?

    Study it for yourself, look at the provided evidence. That’s what I do. I look at what Flat Earthers say, and compare it to what educated people say ;). Read and study the whole Bible, get a picture of the whole thing. Read everything in context, ask questions. Be willing to give up what you think is true and follow what the Bible (the Word of God) actually says. That’s what I do.

    Are you equating a person selling themselves (and/or family) into slavery for 6 years,
    to Americans stealing Africans, and selling them to each other to be bond forever? Huge difference… Jewish slavery was more like indentured servitude. Where a Jew would go bankrupt, so they’d sell themselves to somebody kind enough to take them in. They’d work for them for 6 years. You do realize you live in a nation that kills people for just belonging to the wrong country, right? We annhilated innocent men, women, and children for simply living in Japan who we were at war with. If you get your “morals” from our culture and society, upon what basis do you condemn the Israelites? You If you’re morals come from society, upon what basis do you judge the Israelites for having rules to protect the rights of slaves. In america (your culture and society), slaves had no rights. In Israel over 3000 years ago, they did, and those rights were layed out. They were viewed as human, in America they weren’t viewed as human at all, or maybe only partially human. And this wasn’t all that long ago. 1865… What, three or four generations ago? Your morals have evolved that much in that little time? I’d say societal morality is truly immoral. Upon what basis can you say otherwise?

    Why do you have to trust in what man says? If you must be a sheep, make Christ your shepherd, not me or the pope, or your father in law, or any other man. Don’t believe my interpretation, don’t believe anybody else’s. Study for yourself, know for yourself. Religious skeptics such as you should maintain their skepticism, and know things for themselves. What does the Bible really say about Baptism? What does the Bible really say about food laws in relation to modern Christianity? What does the Bible really say about how we are justified before God? Why would you have to trust me or somebody else, ultimately if you’re not in right standing with God, it’s you alone that will fall for your actions, so you ought to know for yourself.

    I’m confused as to what it is that you’re comparing with these articles? Ancient Israelites had a system of Capital Punishment. The punishment system God uses, is spiritual death. The wages of sin is death, Christ died on the cross as a propitiation for believers. If he was radically opposed to the death penalty, wouldn’t he have not let them kill him? He told Pilate “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above;” (John 19:11) Seems that Jesus believed that Pilate had a God given authority to rule, and had a right to make the judicial decision to execute. But you don’t have to take my word for it.

    If you don’t know the teaching of Jesus, how on earth could you tell who is a true Christian? Christian’s don’t have to know everything, but to spit in the face of what Jesus taught as Mormonism does, discredits them as full followers of him.

    It appears we are both open minded, if I find out I’m wrong about something, I’ll follow truth. We’ve both left a faith we were indoctrinated into, I think it’s safe to say that we are both seekers of truth with open minds. I don’t think capital punishment is unethical. There are those that are harmful to society, and have demonstrated a severe disregard for all people. I think it’s fair for a murderers to be killed. A life for a life is just in my opinion. In Israelite culture, the judicial system was built around making things better for the victim. A rapist, was to be killed, but should the woman wish to extend mercy, she could. It wasn’t about penalizing the perpetrator, but doing what needs to be done to make things right for the victim. If a thief stole something, the victim could extend mercy to the thief and not have them punished. Again, it was about making it right for the victim, if the victim needed to be payed back, that was just, but if they wanted to extend mercy, they could. Our judicial system is built around the perpetrators and the victims aren’t as cared for. We have “Penitentiaries” (Penance). And “correctional facilities”. If somebody steals something from somebody, they might get away without paying the person back. If a man rapes a woman, and has a good attorney, in a matter of years he could be out and about and in her life again, despite the wrong he committed. Even murderers can end up back on the streets, with no regard for the victims.

    “It makes me cringe, are you just looking for verses to take out of context? Or parroting atheists who have done that?” I’ve spent much time on atheist websites, and talking to atheists. I see the same out of context verses time, and time again. I didn’t mean disrespect, but I see the same out of context verses time, and time again. I hope you understand. Yes I quoted from CARM, what is the issue with that? The issue I addressed was parroting out of context verses. What’s the issue with what I quoted from CARM?

    The books of wisdom in the Old testament talk about this. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job. Proverbs contains more of a view that life is fair, Ecclesiastes introduce the gray, and the smoke, and Job really dives into both. I’d highly, highly, highly encourage you watch these three short animations. As somebody who studies religion, you will find these animations fascinating. This is a link to the Bible Project “Wisdom series” starting with Proverbs. You shared “brother Jake”, so I hope I return the favor with this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gab04dPs_uA&list=PLH0Szn1yYNeeKPNIy7YXjO3MGD8h8ifhr

    “I read the whole of Leviticus 25 once again, without verse delimiters. I cannot see how it is out of context to say that The Bible endorses, condones, and encourages the buying, selling, and enslavement of human beings (Israelites partially excepted).”

    I want you to catch what happened here. “I read the whole of Leviticus 25” “The Bible endorses….” You are using a single chapter to summarize the ENTIRETY of the Bible. Do you see that? I don’t know about encourages, but in this chapter, the bible condones the buying, selling, and enslavement of human beings under certain rights and conditions. But when you make the jump to say that because one chapter does that, that the whole of the Bible endorses, condones, and encourage the buying, selling, and enslavement of human beings with or without rights in modern society, you’ve taken the chapter out of context of the rest of the Bible. Does that make sense?

    Again, with Deuteronomy 21. I say it’s out of context to say that because the Israelites were allowed to exercise capital punishment for disobedient and rebellious children in that verse, that THE WHOLE BIBLE endorses, condones, and COMMANDS the murder of disobedient and rebellious children.
    It’s inductive reasoning to go from specific circumstances, to general. Such as if I were to say “The coin I pulled from the bag is a penny. That coin is a penny. A third coin from the bag is a penny. Therefore, all the coins in the bag are pennies.”, all the premises can be true, while the conclusion can be false. We can use deductive reasoning to then test the broad statement. “Is every coin in the bag a penny”? Using this question, to start the scientific method, we can test it.

    In philosophy, there is what is referred to as the “problem of induction”. As an Atheist, I don’t think you can give a justification for using inductive reasoning because it relies upon uniformity in nature. If the universe came from chaos, and there is no order or control, how can you possibly know if anything will be uniform? Yet you do rely upon gravity right now, you trust that it remains constant. Why? How do you know you won’t bounce off the ground when you leave your house tomorrow. Are you scared you might float away? You trust that the future will be like the past, but what is your justification for it? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_induction

    I think that’s a nail in the coffin for atheists. I have an atheist I’ve been talking to who holds like two Ph. D’s in science, and is in his like late 60s. When I asked him this, he resorted to ad hominem attacks, calling me vile, disgusting, uneducated, immature, illogical, and many other things. He refuses to respond to the question, so I just keep asking “Why does this question strike you with so much fear that you have to run from it? Isn’t your worldview supposed to be the picture of skepticism? Why do you run from a question?” He won’t switch out of his ad hominem arguments, and I think ultimately he’ll just give up because I just keep asking him! Mayhaps you will have an answer that he does not. As a Christian, I have a basis to believe in uniformity in nature. I can provide a justification for belief in induction. I don’t think atheists can, but I’d be curious to see what you find.

    I used Ctrl F to search the page for “made for”, and yours is the only reference that popped up. I’m sorry, I’m not sure what exactly it was that I said, could provide the reference? I just want to know what it is that you are referencing, I’m sure you understand.

    “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him;” (romans 10:12) I’m not sure what the contradiction is. Does God send people to hell? Yes. Did he know they were going to go? Yes. Jews, Greeks, Male, Female, Bond, free, there is no distinction.

    It’s not about learning of christianity. We all have the Law of God written in our hearts if i’m honest with my position and believe the Bible. We all knowingly trespass it, we sin. All of us are sinners, you, me, the pope, Thomas S Monson, Ghandi, Donald Trump, the hobo who I see walking in the park I park at to walk to campus every day, we are all sinners. God is just, and the wages of sin is death.

    If I owed a restaurant 300 dollars, you could pay it for me. It would be a transferable debt. We owe God a legal debt for our sins. The wages of sin is death, so Jesus’s death was able to cancel out the legal debt that we owed God. The Christian position is that without Jesus, we have all sinned, and deserve the justice and wrath of God. (“He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13 and 14)

    What happens if you lie to an infant? Nothing. What happens if you lie to your boss? You could lose your job. What happens if you lie to a friend? You could lose their trust. What happens if you lie in court? You could go to jail. What happens when you lie before God?

    See what I did there? Who the offense is against matters. We all deserve death, and that’s why I go out and preach Jesus to whoever I can. He is the way, the truth, and the life. And if you put your faith in him, you will be justified before God. If you confess him as your Lord and Savior, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Just because we all have value, doesn’t mean we aren’t all sinners who deserve the just punishment for our sins.

    How can one give themself value? Is value completely arbitrary? Is that why people can say a Fetus doesn’t have value and is okay to kill, but a pet dog has more rights? I disagree with that, I think it’s dangerous thinking to trust society to decide who has value. Because at one time, black people did not. In germany, Jews did not. In America, Fetus’s do not. As image bearers of God, we all have value. I don’t believe that because of a translation of a translation of an ancient text, but because God’s law is written in my heart and I know everybody has value. That’s why I cringe to see people violated and not treated as they should be as I’m sure you do to.

    I would tell him “Isa” is God. Using what is called “abductive reasoning” I’d lay out the “minimal facts” approach to him. I’d quote from Tacitus, Thallus, Mara Bar-Serapion, Phlegon, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, Lucian of Samosata, and Celsus. These are ancient writers, several are authors and well trusted historians, all of which were anti-christian but yet confirm different facts surrounding the Gospel claims. If you believe in world history, the minimal facts approach is highly effective. Abductive reasoning allows for you to make the most reasonable conclusion based on the facts. The Quran says that it fulfills the prophecies of the Torah and the “Evangel”. (Surah 3:3) It affirms that the Torah, and the “evangel” are the Word of God. I would quote from the eyewitnesses who saw Jesus. That are referenced in the “evangel” (New testament) which Muslims are supposed to believe in. Paul gained his testimony independently, and then studied with Peter and the brother of Jesus. Jesus’s brother would have known if Jesus was the Messiah or not, and Paul wrote letters prior to the Gospels. I’d reference Paul and what he wrote.

    Then, gathering all the facts and evidence. Speaking to a muslim who is supposed to believe in the Evangel, we’d talk about Jesus. They deny that he rose from the dead. Using Abductive reasoning, that’s highly illogical.

    How I’d talk to them is different than an atheist though, because an atheist rejects the Bible, and evidence is irrelevant if they’ve ruled out the possibility of what it could mean. That’s why I find presuppositional argumentation more effective when I talk to atheists, because I find their worldview is based on assumptions they cannot justify belief in. Such as induction (uniformity in nature).

    I’d reject Allah, and the Quran for the same reason that I’d reject the Book of mormon. The Quran is supposed to be revelation on top of the Torah, and the Evangel, but it contradicts both. The challenge of the truth of the Quran is layed out in Surah 2:23 “And if you (Arab pagans, Jews, and Christians) are in doubt concerning that which We have sent down (i.e. the Qur’an) to Our slave (Muhammad Peace be upon him ), then produce a surah (chapter) of the like thereof and call your witnesses (supporters and helpers) besides Allah, if you are truthful.”

    Sound familiar? D&C 67:6-8 “6 Now, seek ye out of the Book of Commandments, even the least that is among them, and appoint him that is the most wise among you;
    7 Or, if there be any among you that shall make one like unto it, then ye are justified in saying that ye do not know that they are true;
    8 But if ye cannot make one like unto it, ye are under condemnation if ye do not bear record that they are true.”

    For the challenge of the Quran, I present the Book of Mormon. For the challenge of the Book of Commandments, I present the Quran. Both are false.
    You said it, historical Jesus doesn’t affect your belief in God. That’s why I don’t use evidential apologetics, and explain to you what it is all those historians wrote about Jesus, and how using only the minimal agreed upon, non biased sources and abductive reasoning it’s obvious Jesus rose from the dead.

    The problem is you’ve ruled out the possibility of Jesus even rising from the dead. You have what is called a philosophically “Non-falsifiable” position. It cannot be a true position, because the inverse is impossible. You somehow know that Jesus could not have rose from the dead. The skeptical position is to say “I don’t know”, but you say “I know he didn’t”. (I think, let me know if I’m misrepresenting you) You say it’s impossible. I don’t think you can provide any evidence to support your knowledge claim. I think you have to presuppose naturalism to come to that conclusion, but I don’t think you can give a justification for presupposing naturalism as an atheist. I find this to be another nail in the coffin.

    If you said “I don’t know” and would accept evidence either way, I might talk about the evidence with you, but when you have a worldview that doesn’t allow for Jesus to possibly have rose from the dead, or for God to possibly exist, the problem is philosophical. I don’t think you can provide a justification for belief in induction, or for an absolute moral standard, or for a basis to say that all people have value and those who disagree are wrong, or for naturalism. Seeing as this response is just under 10 pages, It will take me a bit more time to get to your other post. I appreciate you being willing to discuss all this. I’ve said it before, but as far as atheists go, you are the most ethical one I know, with good questions, ideas, and thoughts. You express yourself well, and you do your research. It’s always a pleasure to discuss with you, even if we almost always are discussing what it is we disagree on 😉

    1. You claim your morality comes from The Bible which comes from God. You are judging Islam and The Qu’ran based on your interpretation of the morality of The Bible and what it says of The Will of God.

      Of course, a Muslim claims their morality comes from The Qu’ran which comes from God. They are judging The Bible based on their interpretation of the morality of The Qu’ran and what it says of The Will of God.

      Which of you is correct? What evidence do you have to support your claim? Do you suppose that a Muslim might present very similar “evidence” for their claims?

      If morality necessarily comes from God, as you claim, a Muslim, in being convinced that The Qu’ran comes directly from God, are they justified in believing that whatever The Qu’ran says is moral? No matter how horrific?

      I judge both your books as being immoral and unethical and written by primitive people, without even a basic scientific knowledge, in order to spread their currently accepted mythology and to control the populace.

      What evidence do you have that Catholicism is not Christian? The Pope says that they are. He has provided as much evidence as you have. I need to ask that you define “Christian.” Please be detailed and specific as I am clearly confused and the dictionary is apparently lacking the details I need to differentiate between you, Catholicism, The Greek Orthodox Christian Church, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, Lutherans, Baptists, Second Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Mennonites, Pentacostalism, etc. All of them claim to be Christians. What are the characteristics that arbitrate whether they really are or not? What evidence can you provide for your definition? Do you suppose that any/all of them would disagree with you and your assessment of their Christianity?

      The word ‘atheist’ has a commonly understood definition as one who doesn’t believe in god or gods. ‘Christian’ also has a commonly understood definition – as I posted before. If you want to use different, more specific and detailed definitions, please define it. A Mormon, for example, believes in the miraculous birth, life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus. To my mind, that is enough to match the definition I posted before. As far as I know, so do the other sects I listed above. Do you suppose that all of the sects above would claim that they do follow the teachings and commandments of Christ? And be able to point to their interpretation of the scriptures to justify their claims? Please educate me as to what definition of ‘Christian’ would you care to use for the purpose of this discussion. Please provide a list of the teachings and commandments they must believe and follow to be defined properly as a Christian. In return, I provide a list of things that a person must follow to be defined properly as an atheist:
      1. Does not believe in god or gods.

      Unless The Bible read:

      “Thus sayeth The LORD: It would be wholly evil to say, ‘Your male and females slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves’, because slavery is wrong. Do not buy and sell people like livestock.”

      Or, if Jesus had said, “I know Moses said that slavery was fine, but now that I’m here, I just wanna say that owning people as chattel is wrong. Set your current slaves free and never buy another.”

      If I’m missing those extra passages, please let me know.

      You will commonly see the subjects of rape, murder, genocide, and slavery when looking at Biblical criticism, so, yes, you will often see similar verses cited. I have yet to encounter a satisfactory reply to any of these criticisms. “Revenge” as a justification for the “morality” of the genocide of the Midianites seems like a valid target for criticism.

      Is it moral and ethical to own a person and make them work as you would work as an ass or an ox? Based on my reading, and the reading of thousands of other “Christians” who used The Bible to defend the continued enslavement of African slaves, The Bible says it is. Is the book wrong, or are the people wrong? Of course, some other people at the time used the very same book to defend abolition. Seems like people can interpret that book anyway they want in order to support the position they currently hold.

      “Well, if I tell you the earth is flat, and other people say it’s round, how do you know the difference? Who is right, and who is wrong? How do you decide?”

      Science. Reason. Evidence.

      I don’t trust in what any man says. I think you are all incorrect. My father-in-law, The Pope, Matt Slick, you. What I am attempting to show you is that none of you have any reliable, reproducible evidence that your view is correct. For a skeptic, all of your claims are equally unsubstantiated and dismissed.

      I don’t believe there is any evidence for a god, so, before trusting that any scripture, Bible, Qu’ran, Book of Mormon, or otherwise, has the truth of a god’s will, someone is going to have to provide me evidence that a god exists. Then we’ll have to debate how to determine which of those books, if any, was actually written by/for that god.

      You can’t all be right, but you can all be wrong.

      The problem of induction. I don’t know. Inductive reasoning has never not worked, so I have repeatable, reliable evidence that it does. Might it not tomorrow? Sure. Is it probable? Based on the evidence, I don’t believe so, but if it does show me that evidence. In fact, when you look at quantum mechanics, it might not on the atomic scale. Of course, this brings us to Justin’s Razor; “If anyone mentions ‘quantum mechanics’ and is not named Hawking, Thorne, Cox, or Kaku, you may dismiss their arguments out of hand.”

      You asked for this reference. In a comment on “Arrogant Faith”, you quoted me and provided a response:

      Justin: “I agree. I don’t understand God’s behavior in the slightest. God is going to reward and punish based on faith and belief, but people born into Saudi Arabia, who are forbidden from studying Christianity, and certainly forbidden from becoming Christians, to Hell with them? Quite literally? I guess it’s consistent with this god’s decidedly unmerciful and capricious moral character.”

      Jake: “What’s wrong with that? Why can’t a potter use the same clay, and make a beautiful vase with part of it, and a trash bin with the rest? Why can’t God design some people for destruction, and some for salvation? On what basis do you judge him? This is what I was talking about earlier, you act as if you know that God is evil. You have shifting morals, on what grounds do you accuse God? What standard do you use? How could you possibly call God evil. 1. You also argue he doesn’t exist. And 2. You have no basis to judge him in the first place…”

      Assuming for a moment that you are correct, and because we all sin, we all need Christ’s blood-magic substitutionary ritual to avoid destruction? What must we do to be included in that blood-magic substitutionary ritual? Are non-”Christians” like Mormons, Methodists, Catholics, Lutherans, etc. included? Or are their souls destined for the ash-heap of eternity? What about non-Christians too young to open their minds and realize the truth of the “true Christianity?” Or, the victim of a murder – Matthew Shepherd for example – who may have been trespassing against God, but never had the chance to give their lives to Christ as his murders have?

      I’ve made this analogy before. I don’t know how else to explain why I think Christ’s substitutionary death and punishment fails to make any sense. If I have two children, and one tells me a lie, I don’t punish the other. If I “sin” against this god (in some way that I am only, apparently subconsciously aware), why would He not simply punish me? I’d far rather be punished for my own failings than to place that burden on another.

      The most reasonable conclusion based on the facts. The facts are, there is no reliable, repeatable, falsifiable evidence for a god. The facts are there is no reliable, repeatable, falsifiable evidence for anything supernatural. The facts are there is no reliable, repeatable, falsifiable evidence for Biblical miracles. The facts are there is no reliable, repeatable, falsifiable evidence for Moses, The Exodus, The Flood, Noah, etc. The facts are there are many mythological religious texts from many primitive cultures that are no longer treated as scriptural. The facts are that Muslims, Mormons, Catholics, Hindus, and Zoroastrians profess a confident surety that they have the correct idea of god(s), but none have reliable, repeatable, falsifiable evidence to back those claims. As such, to me, the most reasonable conclusion based on the facts currently in evidence is that there is no reason to believe nor live as if there is a god, nor that any god had his will, morality, and commandments written in primitive texts that seem infinitely bendable to the beliefs of the individual reading them.

      Please provide me with reliable, repeatable, falsifiable evidence of any individual miraculously rising from the dead after three days. After I have that evidence, I will believe that it is, at the very least, possible that a possible historical Jesus possibly rose from the dead.

      The dead horse: The time to believe something is after you have evidence, not before. I will not believe in dowsing, tarot cards, resurrection, or god until I have been presented with reliable, repeatable, falsifiable evidence commensurate with the magnitude of the claim.

      I also enjoy your discussions. I’m glad you’ve continued to respond when you’ve had time. I’m glad to see that semi-anonymous atheists and theists on the Internet can disagree pleasantly, informatively, and politely. 🙂

      Cheers,
      Justin

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