Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Failure of Christian Ethics


Christians wonder what there is in an atheistic worldview that prevents us from doing whatever we please if we think we can get away with it.  That question illustrates the fundamental issue with Christian ethics.  It is the fact that for them, ethics are not the product of their own intellect or any naturally evolved sense of altruism - they do not come from within - they derive from and are imposed by an external source.  Thus, Christians are not responsible for their own morality, or to decide for themselves what is right in a particular situation.  Right and wrong are dictated to them, or "revealed", as they call it.  They are simply required to obey.

It is ironic that Christians scoff at atheists' supposed lack of moral responsibility, due to determinism.  They tend to think that determinism implies that people are nothing more than billiard balls, with no capability to play any role in their own behavioral outcomes, which reveals a laughably naive understanding of human nature.  In the Christian view, morality is dictated by God, and it is their "responsibility" only to save themselves from eternal damnation by obeying without question.  So which of these two worldviews really embraces personal responsibility, and which sounds like something more akin to a billiard ball?  Under atheistic materialism, people act in accordance with their own inner nature and decide for themselves what is right.  Under Christianity, God tells them what is right, and the good Christian is simply "following orders" under the threat of damnation.

Christian ethics are essentially selfish.  The Christian seeks to derive personal benefit by a combination of avoiding punishment and achieving the reward of a permanent place in paradise.  Materialistic ethics, on the other hand, tend to be more altruistic.  They do the right thing, not in the hopes of achieving a reward, but because they believe that it is for the best, even if they don't personally benefit. 

Christians have a hard time understanding why an atheist should have any sense of morality at all if they don't have to answer to any higher authority.  Why not just do whatever you can get away with, if it makes you feel good?  It comes down to understanding what motivations we have.  They may not be able to believe that people are truly altruistic, because their own perspective is one of selfish motivation.  They don't know what it means to be responsible for one's own behavior, because they have always been motivated by the external authority of their God. 

One peculiarity of Christian morality is that some Christians believe they have an "escape clause".  They can get away with bad behavior without retribution from God, because the only requirement for gaining entry to paradise is to accept and believe in Jesus.  This appears to be the case with Robert Dear, the evangelical Christian terrorist who stuck in Colorado Springs last week.  His ex-wife revealed in an interview that his belief is that his sins will all be excused by virtue of his acceptance of Jesus.  And he's certainly not the only one who shares this bizarre sense of Christian morality.  This moral "escape clause" is directly attributable to Christians' lack of responsibility for their own behavior.

Christianity also promotes a sense of tribalism among its adherents.  Like many other religions, it places people at odds with others who don't share the faith, or who are thought to depart from its tenets.  It encourages hatred and division, which manifests itself as bigotry directed at "outsiders" such as Jews, or at "moral deviants" such as homosexuals.  This tribalism often results in hostility, violence, or even genocide, with religious faith as its justification.

Another consequence of the Christian worldview is a lack of concern that some of them have for the earth and the people they leave behind.  Many of them focus their concerns on their own entry into paradise, to the exclusion of all worldly matters.  Some of them are so confident in the coming of the "rapture" that they are happy to see the earth be depleted of resources and ruined, so that future generations will not be left with a livable home.  Many even think they will have cause to take pleasure from God's retribution upon the wicked, who have not been redeemed.
In order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned ... So that they may be urged the more to praise God ... The saints in heaven know distinctly all that happens ... to the damned - Thomas Aquinas
Of course, there are people who behave badly, among Christians as well as atheists.  A rational and humane way of treating them would be to try to diagnose and resolve the issues that cause their bad behavior.  The Christian way of dealing with them is to seek retribution - to make them suffer for their behavior, and rejoice in that suffering.

This is the true character of Christian morality.  The next time a Christian claims that his morals are superior to those of an atheist, be aware that for the Christian, the only thing that really matters to him is his own salvation, and he'd take great delight in seeing you be tortured for all eternity.

44 comments:

  1. First I want to say that the notion that atheists and other non-believers can't be morally good is pure bosh. As an atheist I was an upstanding citizen and a good guy. My immediate family members, who are all atheists, are good people and model citizens. I would imagine that most atheists are perfectly fine, kind people.

    Second, I wonder where you've gotten this strange, perverted picture of the Gospel. You write, "In the Christian view, morality is dictated by God, and it is their "responsibility" only to save themselves from eternal damnation by obeying without question," but that's not the Gospel. No one can save them self by following rules. It is only by the grace of God that we are saved. We ought to follow God's commands, which flow from his perfectly nature, not to get things, but out of love. We believe that God sent his perfect son to take on the penalty of our sins in order to reconcile us with himself. When we reflect on how much God loves us and the terrible price that Jesus paid for us, it ought to make us want to not scorn God by disobeying him. I think life is all about developing a distaste for sin and about a burgeoning love of God.

    Your write, "Christian ethics are essentially selfish," but this is a perverted picture of Christian ethics. Christian ethics say all our actions should be motivated by love of God and man. I will say that whether you're a Christian or a secular humanist, all of our actions are done, at least partly, in order to get something. We give to the relief project thousands of miles away partly for the warm fuzzy feeling and the sense that what we're doing is good.

    Here, and elsewhere, you seem to not see the distinction between the Sartean burden of developing one's moral system and being responsible for one's actions. You write, "They don't know what it means to be responsible for one's own behavior, because they have always been motivated by the external authority of their God." Do you really think that because there are state and federal laws we must follow that we are not responsible for our actions?

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    1. You write, "Christianity also promotes a sense of tribalism among its adherents. Like many other religions, it places people at odds with others who don't share the faith, or who are thought to depart from its tenets. It encourages hatred and division, which manifests itself as bigotry directed at "outsiders" such as Jews, or at "moral deviants" such as homosexuals." First tribalism is endemic to humanity, people are adept at creating in and out groups. Second, Christian ethics say that we must love our neighbor as our self, and that everyone is made in the image of God, that everyone is loved by God, so anyone who hates non-believers is not following God's will.

      You write, "The Christian way of dealing with them is to seek retribution - to make them suffer for their behavior, and rejoice in that suffering," but how does this square with the command to love our enemies or with what Paul writes in Romans 12:17-21? Paul writes, "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

      'If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
      if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
      In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.'

      Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

      You write, "[B]e aware that for the Christian, the only thing that really matters to him is his own salvation, and he'd take great delight in seeing you be tortured for all eternity." Be careful that you're not lumping some misguided hateful Christians with Christians in general. I, and the Christians that I know, are incredibly humbled by God's mercy and are terribly grieved by the thought non-believers perish without accepting God's forgiveness.

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    2. Keith,

      I should be clear about what I'm saying. I understand that there are different views among Christians, and that they don't all hold exactly the same beliefs. Some have a more sophisticated understanding than others. I'm not trying to paint all Christians with the same brush. I am addressing commonly held beliefs that may or may not not be the same as yours.

      First I want to say that the notion that atheists and other non-believers can't be morally good is pure bosh.
      Nevertheless, it seems to be a common belief among Christians. Victor Reppert has raised this issue repeatedly.

      No one can save them self by following rules. It is only by the grace of God that we are saved.
      Again, this notion is widespread, and it is well supported in the bible.
      Romans 6:23 - "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
      Revelation 21:8 - "But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."
      Matthew 25:46 - "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

      When we reflect on how much God loves us and the terrible price that Jesus paid for us, it ought to make us want to not scorn God by disobeying him. I think life is all about developing a distaste for sin and about a burgeoning love of God.
      I think of it this way: God placed us in this world, with all its evil and suffering. God made us to be imperfect. God puts a gun to our head and tells us "Follow my commands, and show me your unconditional love, and I will let you continue to adore me for eternity, or else I will make you suffer for eternity." With those choices, you should probably choose to love your God. But under those circumstances, can you call it genuine love? If God really wants people to love him, he should not impose dire consequences. Then, people can choose freely. As it is, I don't see how you could call it anything but coercion.

      We give to the relief project thousands of miles away partly for the warm fuzzy feeling and the sense that what we're doing is good.
      Of course. That's a natural (evolved) response we have to helping others in need. But Christian morality encompasses more than that. And the ultimate goal is still to achieve your salvation.

      More to come ...

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    3. Do you really think that because there are state and federal laws we must follow that we are not responsible for our actions?
      Of course not. Neither do I fully agree with Sartre, because because I think there is something inherent in our nature that we are born with - but it is not something that is imposed on us. Divine command is imposed. We have no choice but to obey, unless we are insane. Human laws are something we create, and there is possibility of violating those laws without the dire consequences exacted by God for violating his laws. So you could break the law without being insane. You can say that we freely choose to follow God's commands, but I disagree. There isn't really much of a choice at all.

      First tribalism is endemic to humanity, people are adept at creating in and out groups. Second, Christian ethics say that we must love our neighbor as our self, and that everyone is made in the image of God, that everyone is loved by God, so anyone who hates non-believers is not following God's will.
      Tribalism is part of our nature, but it is enhanced by religion. And all those nice words about loving your neighbor are not really practiced by many Christians. Often, they may be loving toward their fellows in the faith, but just look at the way they attack or denigrate others. I didn't make this up. It's real.

      how does this square with the command to love our enemies or with what Paul writes in Romans 12:17-21?
      It doesn't. It's just reality.

      Be careful that you're not lumping some misguided hateful Christians with Christians in general. I, and the Christians that I know, are incredibly humbled by God's mercy and are terribly grieved by the thought non-believers perish without accepting God's forgiveness.
      As I said, I don't try to paint all with the same brush. But are you calling Thomas Aquinas misguided and hateful. If so, I will agree with you.

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    4. im-skeptical wrote: "I should be clear about what I'm saying. I understand that there are different views among Christians, and that they don't all hold exactly the same beliefs."

      OK, thanks for clarifying. It sounded like you were saying that most Christians believe these things. To your credit, you did specify "some" Christians in your environmental paragraph.

      im-skeptical wrote: "Nevertheless, it seems to be a common belief among Christians. Victor Reppert has raised this issue repeatedly."

      I don't doubt that some Christians may think this. However, I have heard William Lane Craig say several times that he believes that atheists can be morally good, and I consider Craig's theology to be fairly mainstream and non-liberal.

      im-skeptical wrote: "Again, this notion is widespread, and it is well supported in the bible."

      There is indeed confusion about the works and grace issue. Paul writes in Romans 3:27-28, "Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law." So, dose Paul negate this statement when he writes in Galatians 5:19-21 about how people who live by the flesh will not inherit the Kingdom of God? No, of course not. What Paul is saying in these passages is that we are saved by grace alone and that pervasive, persistent and unrelenting bad actions are a sign that someone is not following Christ and that they aren't truly saved.


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    5. im-skeptical wrote: "I think of it this way: God placed us in this world, with all its evil and suffering. God made us to be imperfect. God puts a gun to our head...Then, people can choose freely. As it is, I don't see how you could call it anything but coercion."

      I think of it this way, a criminal is guilty of a horrific crime and is deserving death, but the judge, who is the criminal's father, steps in and says, "Son, I love you so much that I will pay the penalty for your crimes if you let me."

      To be sure, God's endowment of freewill to his heavenly and earthly creations has caused a lot of havoc and pain, but I believe that good in the form of an authentic loving relationship with God ultimately comes from this situation. The Gospel is a tightrope walk where God balances love, mercy and justice. God endows his creations with free will so that they can freely decide to follow or reject God to love him or hate him. God, knowing that rebellion is inevitable, balances his perfect justice with his perfect love by taking on the penalty for our transgressions.

      I think the best way to see the Gospel is through the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The father figure in the story, who represents God, allows his younger son to leave with the son's full inheritance. The son blows all his money and comes on hard times. The son comes back and the father gladly receives him. God gives us the freedom to walk away from him and do our own thing, but there are consequences to our actions. If you want nothing to do with God then he doesn't force himself on you, but if you ultimately reject him you will be separated from the source of all that is good and beautiful.

      im-skeptical wrote: "Divine command is imposed. We have no choice but to obey, unless we are insane. Human laws are something we create, and there is possibility of violating those laws without the dire consequences exacted by God for violating his laws. So you could break the law without being insane. You can say that we freely choose to follow God's commands, but I disagree. There isn't really much of a choice at all."

      Well, whether we're talking about divine or governmental laws/commands we always have a choice about whether or not to follow them, it's just that there are consequences that we might face if we disobey them.

      You say only an insane person would disobey God, but I don't think that this is necessarily true. What if a person who wants to disobey God convinces them self that there is no God or objective morals and duties? That person could then disobey God and not worry about the consequences. After all, God, assuming there is a God, made the world in such a way that we can't be sure whether or not he actually exists. The skeptic can say that there are no gods and do whatever they want without fear of ultimate consequences.

      You say that there is a possibility of not facing serious consequences for violating human laws. Well, this is true with divine laws as well. The good news of the Gospel is that God paid the price for out sins and will pardon us if we just accept his mercy.

      im-skeptical wrote: "And all those nice words about loving your neighbor are not really practiced by many Christians. Often, they may be loving toward their fellows in the faith, but just look at the way they attack or denigrate others. I didn't make this up. It's real."

      What facts do you have to back up this assertion? Is it possible that you've dealt with some bad seed Christians and have come to believe that most Christians are not loving? Remember that the bad seeds get all the press while the good ones are often ignored.

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    6. im-skeptical wrote: "It doesn't. It's just reality."

      OK, what I'm seeing is that you're confusing how some Christians act with Christian morality and teachings in general. If a particular Christian lashes out and retaliates in a violent way, that person is behaving immorally according to Christian morality. Don't forget that even good Christians make mistakes and do stupid things; that's just part of being human. Expecting all Christians to be perfect all the time is unrealistic and unfair. Also, don't forget that some people who claim to be Christians, aren't really following Christ.

      im-skeptical wrote: "But are you calling Thomas Aquinas misguided and hateful. If so, I will agree with you."

      You need to know that whatever New Atheist site you got the Aquinas quote from took it out of context probably to make Aquinas look like a monster. I'll spare you Aquinas' whole philosophical back-and-fourth surrounding the relevant quote, which comes from Question 94 of Summa Theologica, but I will give you the full context of the paragraph that it comes from. Aquinas writes, "I answer that, Nothing should be denied the blessed that belongs to the perfection of their beatitude. Now everything is known the more for being compared with its contrary, because when contraries are placed beside one another they become more conspicuous. Wherefore in order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned." So, with the context we can see that Aquinas is saying that the saints in heaven can more fully appreciate how wonderful heaven is by observing how awful the polar opposite of it is. In a sense, this does make sense because if one has never experienced bitter cold then it's hard to really appreciate being warm. This does come off as a little cold and insensitive, but I don't think that Aquinas is a monster.

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    7. To your credit, you did specify "some" Christians in your environmental paragraph.
      I'm glad we cleared that up. I'm talking about problems I see with Christian morality that are not necessarily universal, but may be manifest among various segments of the Christian community.

      I have heard William Lane Craig say several times that he believes that atheists can be morally good, and I consider Craig's theology to be fairly mainstream and non-liberal.
      I disagree. I think this is more mainstream. Why? because this is what I hear from most Christians.

      we are saved by grace alone and that pervasive, persistent and unrelenting bad actions are a sign that someone is not following Christ and that they aren't truly saved.
      I'm sure this is the majority position. However, there are notable exceptions, including the terrorist Robert Dear. And you yourself say "The good news of the Gospel is that God paid the price for out sins and will pardon us if we just accept his mercy." You seem to place some stock in the notion of an escape clause.

      God, knowing that rebellion is inevitable, balances his perfect justice with his perfect love by taking on the penalty for our transgressions.
      I don't buy it. It doesn't make sense. Do you realize how ridiculous it sounds to say that God's son should take the punishment for our behavior? Or that we are all guilty of "original sin" because of the act of a long-dead ancestor who didn't know right from wrong? Why doesn't this God take responsibility for his own faults? He made all this, and it's nowhere near perfect. If he wanted people to be happy and spend eternity basking in his glory, why didn't he just skip all the suffering and punishment? No - none of this makes any sense. You can rationalize all you like, but I don't buy it.

      If you want nothing to do with God then he doesn't force himself on you, but if you ultimately reject him you will be separated from the source of all that is good and beautiful.
      The old carrot and stick. You are free to disobey, but you won't like the consequences if you do. That's not freedom. God could let some people freely choose to love him, and let the rest of us carry on without the eternal punishment part, but he has to be a huge prick about it. This guy has not earned my love or my respect. If he exists, he's not at all what you make him out to be.

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    8. What if a person who wants to disobey God convinces them self that there is no God or objective morals and duties? That person could then disobey God and not worry about the consequences.
      I'd say such a person would be pretty damn stupid.

      What facts do you have to back up this assertion? Is it possible that you've dealt with some bad seed Christians and have come to believe that most Christians are not loving?
      I think this is a matter of perspective. People don't see themselves as hateful. If you are outside the Christian community, especially if you are an atheist or otherwise reviled by most Christians, you get a different picture.

      OK, what I'm seeing is that you're confusing how some Christians act with Christian morality and teachings in general.
      I understand that the teachings are one thing and the reality of Christians' behavior in many cases is quite different. I don't expect anyone to be perfect. But if you hate gay people or think Donald Trump makes sense, and you tell yourself that you are following those teachings, you are deluded.

      This does come off as a little cold and insensitive, but I don't think that Aquinas is a monster.
      Not a monster, just a Christian trying to rationalize something that makes no sense. By the way, I got that quote from a Christian site.


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    9. im-skeptical wrote: "I'm glad we cleared that up. I'm talking about problems I see with Christian morality that are not necessarily universal, but may be manifest among various segments of the Christian community."

      Fair enough, I agree that there are some Christians, and those who claim to be Christians, in the world who are not following Christ at least some of the time.

      im-skeptical wrote: "I disagree. I think this is more mainstream. Why? because this is what I hear from most Christians."

      Dude, did you read the part of the article where Pastor Henderson says that atheists can be moral? He writes, "First, the temptation is to pervert this conversation into a debate about whether atheists can be moral. Of course they can. That is not the question. The question is how we make sense of moral claims if we play by the rules that atheism demands." Henderson is critiquing your belief in subjective morality by saying that according to your worldview atheists can't be moral in the objective sense because morality is just your opinion verses my opinion--nothing is truly wrong or right.

      im-skeptical wrote: "However, there are notable exceptions, including the terrorist Robert Dear. And you yourself say 'The good news of the Gospel is that God paid the price for out sins and will pardon us if we just accept his mercy.' You seem to place some stock in the notion of an escape clause."

      Well, I think Robert Dear is likely a sandwich short of a picnic, and that he is hardly a paragon of Christianity, but I know that when he murdered people he was not following God's commands.

      As to the escape clause, I do think that God can and dose forgive terrible sins past, present and future, but with the caveat that one must sincerely trust in and accept Christ's atonement and that one must repent of all sins. You can fool people but you can't fool God--God will weed out the frauds.

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    10. im-skeptical wrote: "I don't buy it. It doesn't make sense."

      I don't think that I have to tell you that this is not an argument against the Gospel. It seems inconceivable that something good, namely Penicillin, can come from nasty mold, and yet we ingest it because it cures us from infections.

      im-skeptical wrote: "Do you realize how ridiculous it sounds to say that God's son should take the punishment for our behavior? Or that we are all guilty of "original sin" because of the act of a long-dead ancestor who didn't know right from wrong? Why doesn't this God take responsibility for his own faults? He made all this, and it's nowhere near perfect. If he wanted people to be happy and spend eternity basking in his glory, why didn't he just skip all the suffering and punishment? No - none of this makes any sense. You can rationalize all you like, but I don't buy it."

      The Gospel is difficult to fathom, but it is an amazingly beautiful picture of the judge paying the penalty for those that he loves. It is God balancing justice in the sense that our sins aren't just shrugged off as no big deal and mercy in that Jesus's sacrifice reconciles us with himself. In fact, the Gospel is God taking responsibility, not for his faults because he has none, but for the limitations of what is logically possible. It's true that God could have made us into robots that mechanically obey him and utter "I love you," but that is a hollow loveless relationship. In order to have an authentic loving relationship with us, God had to give us free will and all ills that come with it. But after our inevitable rebellions, Christ's sacrifice allows us to be reconciled with God and helps us to see how much he loves us. We come to see that sin is repugnant and that what we really crave is a deep relationship with our creator, and so freely choose to love and obey him.


      im-skeptical wrote: "God could let some people freely choose to love him, and let the rest of us carry on without the eternal punishment part, but he has to be a huge prick about it."

      What you are describing is the Christian picture of the afterlife. Those that love and follow God are with him in heaven and those that want nothing to do with God are completely separated from him. Those that walk away from God are also walking away from all that is good, beautiful and fulfilling. Hell is the complete absence of goodness, and the lack of all that is good is what produces the mental anguish that those who reject God will suffer.

      im-skeptical wrote: "This guy has not earned my love or my respect."

      That guy, who is not God, hasn't earned my love and respect either.

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    11. im-skeptical wrote: "I'd say such a person would be pretty damn stupid."

      That person is not behaving rationally in that their drive for ephemeral carnal pleasures is motivating them to use confirmation biases and humanity's lack of absolute knowledge of reality to reach the conclusion that they want to believe.

      im-skeptical wrote: "I think this is a matter of perspective. People don't see themselves as hateful. If you are outside the Christian community, especially if you are an atheist or otherwise reviled by most Christians, you get a different picture."

      As someone who is a Christian minority living in the godless Pacific Northwest, I can understand where you're coming from. At times, I have felt that almost everyone around me must hate me for what I believe, but in reality I think that only a small minority of non-believers hate Christians. I suspect this is the case with you and Christians. What I do know is that all Christians are called to see their fellow humans as being made in the image of God and to love their neighbor, which even includes angry Richard Dawkins, as them self.

      im-skeptical wrote: "But if you hate gay people or think Donald Trump makes sense, and you tell yourself that you are following those teachings, you are deluded."

      I completely agree that hating people is not Godly.

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    12. Dude, did you read the part of the article where Pastor Henderson says that atheists can be moral?
      Henderson is arguing that under an atheist worldview, there is no real morality. He says an atheist can be moral only by irrationally abandoning what he regards as the logical mandates or consequences of the atheistic worldview. This is based entirely on his theistic assumptions about the nature of the human values of goodness or morality, and where they come from, not to mention an overly simplistic understanding of evolution.

      I absolutely reject his theistic beliefs about goodness and morality. So according to him, I can't be moral. But he's still wrong.

      I do think that God can and dose forgive terrible sins past, present and future, but with the caveat that one must sincerely trust in and accept Christ's atonement and that one must repent of all sins. You can fool people but you can't fool God--God will weed out the frauds.
      That doesn't change the fact that he believes he is operating under this escape clause.

      It seems inconceivable that something good, namely Penicillin, can come from nasty mold, and yet we ingest it because it cures us from infections.
      No. There is a perfectly good explanation, and it makes sense. What doesn't make sense is that I bear responsibility for the act of an innocent ancestor, or that someone else bears responsibility for my sin. If you can provide a reasonable explanation, I could change my mind, but I have yet to hear it.

      In order to have an authentic loving relationship with us, God had to give us free will and all ills that come with it.
      In order to have an authentic loving relationship with us, he needs to make our choices free - that is, don't have the gun pointed at us. This dovetails with arguments about determinism. God knows what will happen, and yet you claim you have free will. So why doesn't he just make the people that he knows will turn out "good" by their own free will, and not bother torturing the rest of us? It doesn't make sense.

      Those that walk away from God are also walking away from all that is good, beautiful and fulfilling. Hell is the complete absence of goodness, and the lack of all that is good is what produces the mental anguish that those who reject God will suffer.

      Again none of this is necessary. It doesn't matter how hard you try to rationalize it. It just doesn't make sense.

      their drive for ephemeral carnal pleasures is motivating them ...
      Or their drive to understand what's really going on.

      I can understand where you're coming from.
      I don't really think you are a minority. At any rate, when you can turn on the radio and find stations where fire-breathing pastors routinely hurl hateful invective at you and those who share your worldview, then you will have your first inkling of what it's like. When you are reluctant to reveal your worldview to strangers on the street or to those you work with, you will begin to understand. And when you know that it would be bad news for your employer to find out, then you'll know.

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    13. im-skeptical wrote: "Henderson is arguing that under an atheist worldview, there is no real morality...I absolutely reject his theistic beliefs about goodness and morality. So according to him, I can't be moral. But he's still wrong."

      I actually think that you're both partially right. Since Henderson is correct in apprehending that objective morals and duties exist, you can be moral in the objective sense if you act in accordance with those objective morals. I think that you are right in thinking that you could be moral in the subjective sense if you follow whatever moral system you make up.

      im-skeptical wrote: "What doesn't make sense is that I bear responsibility for the act of an innocent ancestor, or that someone else bears responsibility for my sin. If you can provide a reasonable explanation, I could change my mind, but I have yet to hear it."

      Here's my understanding. We're each accountable for our own sins, but there are natural consequences of our actions that can effect those around us and even future generations. In the case of original sin, think of it like we're inheriting a predisposition to sin. In the case of your sin effecting say your grandchildren, pretend that you're an abusive alcoholic, and your children perpetuate the abuse by abusing your grandchildren. This can go on for generations until the cycle stops.

      im-skeptical wrote: "In order to have an authentic loving relationship with us, he needs to make our choices free - that is, don't have the gun pointed at us."

      This gun to the head scenario is a poor analogy. When a robber puts a gun to some pedestrian's head and says, "Give me your wallet or all blow your brains out," the poor pedestrian is clearly a victim as they were just minding their own business and then someone is robbing them. This is a clear example of the argument by force. Now can you honestly say that Robert Dear was an innocent victim when he murdered several people, or that Hitler was an innocent victim when he ordered that millions of Jews should be murdered? Of course not, they're guilty of sin just as I am ( in a less extreme manor) guilty of sin. The Gospel is God's gift of a pardon of crimes committed which is offered to everyone who accepts that pardon and repents of their crimes.

      im-skeptical wrote: "God knows what will happen, and yet you claim you have free will. So why doesn't he just make the people that he knows will turn out "good" by their own free will, and not bother torturing the rest of us? It doesn't make sense."

      Why does God permit those that he knows will reject him to be born? That's a good question. I suspect that non-believers have an important role to play on the stage of life. I know that our conversations have sharpened and refined my faith. I think that God might want to let non-believers experience the gift of life and get a glimpse of his love and beauty. I also think that God's justice might demand that we actually go through the process of accepting or rejecting him.

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    14. im-skeptical wrote: "I don't really think you are a minority. At any rate, when you can turn on the radio and find stations where fire-breathing pastors routinely hurl hateful invective at you and those who share your worldview, then you will have your first inkling of what it's like. When you are reluctant to reveal your worldview to strangers on the street or to those you work with, you will begin to understand. And when you know that it would be bad news for your employer to find out, then you'll know."

      First of all, don't forget that I was born into an atheist family and identified as an atheist and then an agnostic before I converted to Christianity, so I do actually know what it's like to be an atheist.

      Secondly, the survey shows that I actually am a minority as ~62.% of King County residents identify as a none.

      Thirdly, I am reluctant to talk about my faith on the street because Christians are freaks around here and I have taken some flack from classmates and co-workers when I came out of the Christian closet.

      Finally, I am sorry that you have been hurt by Christians who didn't love you as they were supposed to. On behalf of all Christians, I'm sorry that we've hurt you and have been poor ambassadors of Christ.

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    15. Since Henderson is correct in apprehending that objective morals and duties exist ...
      There is no objective evidence of that.

      In the case of original sin, think of it like we're inheriting a predisposition to sin.
      We inherit our human traits. In other words, that's the way we were made. We don't inherit actions - even learned behaviors - from our ancestors. If God made us to be sinners, that's his fault. And by the way, the original sin can hardly be called a sin. Adam and Eve were innocent. They didn't know right from wrong (before eating the fruit). They were tempted by God, who put that tree in front of them, knowing that they would eat its fruit without having the benefit of understanding what it means to sin. So they were set up by God, and then all of humankind has to pay the price. If all of this is allegory, that's fine, but what meaning should I derive from it?

      In the case of your sin effecting say your grandchildren, pretend that you're an abusive alcoholic, and your children perpetuate the abuse by abusing your grandchildren.
      Sure, we can do things that affect future generations. That's not their fault, and they shouldn't be held to account for it.

      This gun to the head scenario is a poor analogy. When a robber puts a gun to some pedestrian's head and says, "Give me your wallet or all blow your brains out,"
      That pretty well describes it. God tells us "Give me your love and obedience, or I'll make sure you suffer for all eternity."

      I suspect that non-believers have an important role to play on the stage of life.
      So I'm here for your benefit, and for my services, I get to suffer for eternity. I'm glad this makes sense to you, but there seems to be something about it that isn't quite right.

      I also think that God's justice might demand that we actually go through the process of accepting or rejecting him.
      Interesting. I have never rejected God. I have rejected belief, which is something quite different. I reject believing something that doesn't have epistemic justification. To reject God, I would have to believe in God, which I don't.

      First of all, don't forget that I was born into an atheist family and identified as an atheist and then an agnostic before I converted to Christianity, so I do actually know what it's like to be an atheist.
      So, were you a rational atheist - someone who arrives at this worldview by analyzing the facts and logically and thinking it through - or by simply adopting the beliefs of those around you? It is one thing to identify as an atheist, and quite another to have a rationally based atheistic worldview.

      I actually am a minority as ~62.% of King County residents identify as a none.
      That doesn't mean most of them are atheists. Many are simply church-free.

      I am reluctant to talk about my faith on the street
      But surely not at risk of losing your career.

      I am sorry that you have been hurt by Christians who didn't love you as they were supposed to.
      No need to apologize. I'm fine. I was only trying to point out that Christians don't always act in a way that is consistent with the ideal ethics they profess as a consequence of their religious belief.

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    16. im-skeptical wrote: "If God made us to be sinners, that's his fault. And by the way, the original sin can hardly be called a sin. Adam and Eve were innocent. They didn't know right from wrong (before eating the fruit)."

      God didn't create us to be sinners he gave us the freedom to rebel and we did. How would God give people the freedom to not love and obey him, and yet insure that they always love and obey him?

      As to Adam and Eve, God gave them one thing that couldn't do, and Genesis 3:3 shows that they understood God's command and yet decided to disobey.

      im-skeptical wrote: "Sure, we can do things that affect future generations. That's not their fault, and they shouldn't be held to account for it."

      No, your sin is not their fault, but choosing to perpetuate is, and that is what they will be accountable for.

      im-skeptical wrote: "That pretty well describes it. God tells us "Give me your love and obedience, or I'll make sure you suffer for all eternity."

      No, that doesn't describe things at all. You are totally forgetting that people are guilty of their sins and are deserving of punishment. It is Jesus who pays the price for those sins and it is his gift of mercy that you are free to accept or reject.

      im-skeptical wrote: "So I'm here for your benefit, and for my services, I get to suffer for eternity."

      Are you thankful for the gift of life? Can I assume that if Christianity is true that you would rather not exist at all?

      im-skeptical wrote: "I have never rejected God. I have rejected belief, which is something quite different. I reject believing something that doesn't have epistemic justification. To reject God, I would have to believe in God, which I don't."

      In all the time I've spent in dialogue with you I get the sense that you abhor the idea of God and that you really don't want God to exist, and I wonder where this comes from. When it comes to God you require nearly indisputable proof that he exists, and yet when it comes to your atheistic beliefs all that you require is that it is logically possible that they're true. This leads me to believe that you don't want there to be a God.

      im-skeptical wrote: "So, were you a rational atheist - someone who arrives at this worldview by analyzing the facts and logically and thinking it through - or by simply adopting the beliefs of those around you?"

      I was a somewhat rational atheist, but my knowledge of arguments for theism and atheism have grown exponentially since I converted.

      im-skeptical wrote: "But surely not at risk of losing your career."

      Maybe, maybe not; it depends on who your employer is and how vocal you are.

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    17. God didn't create us to be sinners he gave us the freedom to rebel and we did.
      God made us what we are, no matter what you call it.

      Genesis 3:3 shows that they understood God's command and yet decided to disobey.
      They didn't know right from wrong. They were completely innocent.

      No, your sin is not their fault, but choosing to perpetuate is, and that is what they will be accountable for.
      Nobody chooses to perpetuate original sin. The very idea of it makes absolutely no sense. The whole thing is just a way iron-age people explained why mankind finds himself in less than ideal circumstances. It's a myth.

      You are totally forgetting that people are guilty of their sins and are deserving of punishment. It is Jesus who pays the price for those sins and it is his gift of mercy that you are free to accept or reject.
      I don't buy it. It doesn't make sense. If I am guilty of something, I take responsibility and I pay the price. Besides, what kind of price could God (or one of his parts) pay for my sins? He didn't die - he went to meet his dad in heaven. We should all be so unfortunate.

      Can I assume that if Christianity is true that you would rather not exist at all?
      Not existing is much better than suffering for eternity. Even if I were granted the Beatific Vision, I'm not sure that would be so great. If there's nothing left for me to achieve or accomplish, would I really be happy?

      When it comes to God you require nearly indisputable proof that he exists, and yet when it comes to your atheistic beliefs all that you require is that it is logically possible that they're true. This leads me to believe that you don't want there to be a God.
      You got it wrong. You are creating a false dichotomy. We all believe that our world exists. We live in it. We are part of it. The question is what else is there? You say that there's something else besides the world we both know about already. I say show me the evidence.

      it depends on who your employer is and how vocal you are
      True. But as a rule, it's wise not to be vocal, because you never know. This is one example of the kind of thing that we need to be cautious about. I really think most Christians don't understand.

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    18. im-skeptical wrote: "They didn't know right from wrong. They were completely innocent."

      Not knowing the consequences of their actions doesn't change the fact that knew what God told them to and they chose to do otherwise.

      im-skeptical wrote: "Nobody chooses to perpetuate original sin."

      People from families with generational sin do have the deck stacked against them, but these cycles can and have been broken.

      im-skeptical wrote: "I don't buy it. It doesn't make sense. If I am guilty of something, I take responsibility and I pay the price. Besides, what kind of price could God (or one of his parts) pay for my sins? He didn't die - he went to meet his dad in heaven. We should all be so unfortunate."

      If God, who is the judge of us, thinks that Jesus has successfully paid the price for our sins and that justice has been upheld then that's all that really matters.

      What price did Jesus pay for our sins? Well, his back was torn to ribbons by a Roman flogging; he was mocked and beaten; nails were driven through his wrists and ankles; he was left out in the elements before his body finally gave out. Then he was separated from the other two members of the trinity for three days breaking the perfect love and unity they had always enjoyed. That sounds horrific to me.

      im-skeptical wrote: "You got it wrong. You are creating a false dichotomy. We all believe that our world exists. We live in it. We are part of it. The question is what else is there? You say that there's something else besides the world we both know about already. I say show me the evidence."

      We both say that there must be something beyond the observable universe that caused it. You say that it is a physical brute fact. I say show me the evidence.

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    19. Not knowing the consequences of their actions doesn't change the fact that knew what God told them to and they chose to do otherwise.
      Not only were they innocent, but they were deceived by another one of God's creations.

      People from families with generational sin do have the deck stacked against them, but these cycles can and have been broken.
      Generational sin? What a barbaric notion.

      If God, who is the judge of us, thinks that Jesus has successfully paid the price for our sins and that justice has been upheld then that's all that really matters.
      It still doesn't make sense, and I still don't buy it.

      his back was torn to ribbons by a Roman flogging; he was mocked and beaten; nails were driven through his wrists and ankles; he was left out in the elements before his body finally gave out. Then he was separated from the other two members of the trinity for three days
      Many humans have suffered more than that. And they didn't have the benefit of knowing that it was just temporary. For them, it was real.

      You say that it is a physical brute fact. I say show me the evidence.
      For the umpteenth time, no. I say I don't know. I can only speculate. You're the one who "knows".

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  2. Here is a book you really ought to read.

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    1. I've read plenty of polemics against "New Atheism". Does this one have anything new to offer? It sounds to me like yet another diatribe by some religious guy who feels threatened by people speaking out against the irrationality of the religion in which he is so deeply invested.

      Do you have any rebuttal to the arguments I have made, or do you simply toss out these little off-topic offerings whenever you feel that your religion has been sullied, under the delusion that they contain some pearl of wisdom that has thus far escaped my attention?

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  3. It sounds to me like yet another diatribe by some religious guy who feels threatened by people speaking out against the irrationality of the religion in which he is so deeply invested. (my emphasis)

    HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!

    LeDrew is AN ATHEIST!

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    1. "HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!"

      So you think you've struck a mortal blow. Yes, this guy says he's an atheist, but he sure as hell doesn't sound like one. Go back and read my comment.

      This guy thinks atheism is a religion. He does research work at a theological institute. He has the same straw man view of scientism that religious people have, and he clearly hasn't read (or at least not understood) the views of the "New Atheists" of which he is so critical.

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  4. Yes, this guy says he's an atheist, but he sure as hell doesn't sound like one.

    "No True Scotsman", huh?

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    1. You didn't read the article, did you? He says that atheism "involves a complex array of epistemological, ethical and political beliefs." If that's true, then he's not one of them (by his own definition), since his own beliefs do not follow the same pattern as many other atheists. On the other hand, if what he says is not true, then he's wrong. So either he's not an atheist, or his assertions are self-refuting. Take your pick.

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  5. So either he's not an atheist, or his assertions are self-refuting. Take your pick.

    But why do I need to take my pick? The assertions of all atheists are self-refuting.

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    1. By definition, a self-refuting assertion requires no opposing argument. It contains its refutation within itself - again, by definition.

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    2. That's not an argument. You made an assertion: "The assertions of all atheists are self-refuting." The fact that some atheists might say things that are self-refuting does not imply that all atheists do. So how do you justify that?

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  6. Read Victor Reppert's Lewis's Dangerous Idea. It contains all the argument you'll ever need to show atheism's self-refutation. No need to repeat the whole book here.

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  7. The major premise of Victor's argument is not epistemically justified, because it is based on religious assumptions. Specifically, the idea that rational thought can't arise from physical causes has no foundation - it is unsupported any kind of objective evidence. I have pointed this out repeatedly, only to have my objections fall upon deaf ears.

    There is no good reason for me to accept this argument. Even though it is by no means complete, science gives us a much better understanding of human cognition than any vague, hand-waving "God did it because I can't understand how nature could have" argument.

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  8. I want everyone reading this to take note of what just happened here. Im-skeptical (who hasn't the faintest clue of the meaning of the word) refuses to call LeDrew an atheist because he said atheism was a religion, and Skeppy vehemently denies that it is. But pay attention:

    - Skeppy's atheism has "orthodoxy" (and LeDrew has violated it)
    - Skeppy's atheism has authority figures who may not be questioned or disagreed with (Dawkins, et.al.)
    - Skeppy's atheism has blasphemy (to say bad things about said authority figures)
    - Skeppy's atheism has apostates (there can be no "former atheists" - anyone converting to Christianity was never a "true" atheist to begin with)
    - Skeppy's atheism has it's own version of the "Courtier's Reply" ("[LeDrew] clearly hasn't read (or at least not understood) the views of the "New Atheists" of which he is so critical.")
    - Skeppy's atheism even has a devil (all those "bigots" and "haters" out there who fail to toe the party line on social issues)

    If it quacks like a duck...

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    1. Please note that it is only your own failure to read what I have said that is the cause of your hopeless confusion.

      I never said LeDrew is not an atheist. I said he doesn't sound like one. I said that because he makes the very same arguments that Christian apologists make.

      - Skeppy's atheism has "orthodoxy" (and LeDrew has violated it)
      That is his claim, not mine. But since he doesn't follow the orthodoxy that he claims atheists have, he is contradicting himself.

      - Skeppy's atheism has authority figures who may not be questioned or disagreed with (Dawkins, et.al.)
      That is your claim, not mine. I don't have a religion. I have no dogma, no orhthodoxy, and I don't bow to anyone's authority. If Dawkins or anyone else says something i disagree with, then I disagree.

      - Skeppy's atheism has blasphemy (to say bad things about said authority figures)
      I do not spare atheists from my criticisms. I do not have a religion.

      - Skeppy's atheism has apostates (there can be no "former atheists" - anyone converting to Christianity was never a "true" atheist to begin with)
      I do not have a religion. People are free to believe what they want. It is rare that people who think rationally revert to superstition.

      - Skeppy's atheism has it's own version of the "Courtier's Reply" ("[LeDrew] clearly hasn't read (or at least not understood) the views of the "New Atheists" of which he is so critical.")
      If LeDrew was familiar with their writing, he wouldn't say ignorant things like "the intolerance they have for cultural diversity and some seeds of social Darwinism" and "ignores the reservoirs of knowledge offered by the social sciences, which add complexities to our understanding of religion that the New Atheists prefer to ignore, indulging in the kind of willful ignorance that they disparage religion for promoting." None if this is a fair representation of their positions, which he clearly doesn't understand

      - Skeppy's atheism even has a devil (all those "bigots" and "haters" out there who fail to toe the party line on social issues)
      I do not have a religion. Devils are for superstitious people like you. But there are a lot of stupid, ignorant people, both among theists and atheists. I call it the way I see it.

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  9. 'Christian ethics' is an oxymoron. YEP. Plank does himself a disservice by demonstrating it in spades.

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    1. He demonstrates it again and again.

      To the Christian with his eyes on the goal of salvation, neither ethics nor logic will come between him and his fantasy.

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  10. This is the best possible answer to your posting. Especially the last four paragraphs.

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    1. Edgestow,

      It's easy to make a soundbite that appeals to people who already believe what it says. This cardinal dude says: “Without God, there is nothing but wars, division, and bewilderment”. I say: "Bullshit. With God, there is nothing but wars, division, and bewilderment, and poverty, famine, terrorism, and let's not forget hell itself". Ok, I don't buy the part about hell, but you should. At least I don't have that in my world.

      The facts are clear. Religiosity is negatively correlated better standards of living and general societal happiness. And many wars are directly attributable to religion. The greatest war in the history of mankind was perpetrated by Christian Nazis, and their hatred of Jews was based on their religious tradition that dates back to the earliest days of Christianity.

      You can try to whitewash the effects of your religious beliefs, but take off the God-colored goggles for a moment, and take an honest, unvarnished look at the world. Maybe then you'll see religion for what it really is.

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    2. im-skeptical wrote: "The facts are clear. Religiosity is negatively correlated better standards of living and general societal happiness."

      As my old Sociology professor used to say, correlation is not causation.

      im-skeptical wrote: "The greatest war in the history of mankind was perpetrated by Christian Nazis, and their hatred of Jews was based on their religious tradition that dates back to the earliest days of Christianity."

      How significant a role Christianity played in lives of Hitler and other Nazi leaders is debatable, but what is not debatable is that the Nazis we're clearly and unquestionably disobeying God's commands to love our neighbor as our self and to not murder.

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    3. As my old Sociology professor used to say, correlation is not causation.
      I didn't say it was causation. I think most sociologists would say that it is the reverse. Religion is a way of coping with miserable conditions and lack of control.

      How significant a role Christianity played in lives of Hitler and other Nazi leaders is debatable, but what is not debatable is that the Nazis we're clearly and unquestionably disobeying God's commands to love our neighbor as our self and to not murder.
      You should read the article I cited. Nazi ideology was founded on Christianity. To be sure, it was a perverse form of Christianity, but millions went along with it. People like Edgestow would have us believe that all those bad things are the result of atheism. He's wrong.

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    4. im-skeptical wrote: "Nazi ideology was founded on Christianity. To be sure, it was a perverse form of Christianity, but millions went along with it. People like Edgestow would have us believe that all those bad things are the result of atheism. He's wrong."

      Nazi ideology and behavior and the teachings of Christ are completely incompatible. Christ commanded that we love our neighbor as our self which certainly prohibits hating and killing Jewish people. A more likely explanation is the the Jews were a convenient scapegoat that a megalomaniac used to to grab power.

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    5. Nazi ideology and behavior and the teachings of Christ are completely incompatible.
      I did say that it was a perverse form of Christianity. But to them it had the ring of truth. Here's an interesting problem: If they think their version is correct, and you think your version is correct, how can you objectively resolve the issue?

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    6. im-skeptical wrote: "Here's an interesting problem: If they think their version is correct, and you think your version is correct, how can you objectively resolve the issue?"

      Easy, cite passages like Matthew 5:21-24 and 43-45, Mark 12:33, Matthew 19:19, James 2:8, Galatians 5:19, Mark 12:31, Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:19-21 and 22-23. Q.E.D.

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    7. You interpret the words the way you like. They did the same. You can't claim that we should take a literal view of everything the bible says, because that would lead to too many contradictions, and discrepancies with what we know. So you have to interpret the words. Who says your interpretation is right?

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