Friday, August 18, 2006

The care and feeding of the village atheist

Although I think there are more important issues to talk about, yet since many unbelievers make a big deal about this, I’ll address it.

Many unbelievers seem to think that they are entitled to a certain standard of treatment. Indeed, to a Christian standard of treatment. And if they’re not treated the way they think that deserve, they scream “Hypocrisy!”

By way of reply:

1.I agree that Christians should treat everyone, believer and unbeliever alike, according to Christian standards.

However, secular critics have a very shaky grasp of Christian ethics. They seem to get their idea of Christian ethics from Mahatmas Gandhi or Touched by an Angel.

Then, when a Christian fails to live up to their thirdhand misconception, they scream “Hypocrisy!”

But to say that we treat everyone according to the same standard, and to say that we treat everyone the same way, is a non sequitur.

Although the Bible has the same standard for believer and unbeliever alike, it doesn’t treat believers and unbelievers alike, for the obvious reason that believers and unbelievers are unlike.

Indeed, many unbelievers go out of their way to distinguish themselves from their believing neighbors.

Moreover, not all unbelievers are alike. The Bible doesn’t treat apostates the same way it treats ignorant pagans.

I have the same standard for everyone, Yet its the very same standard that distinguishes between believers and unbelievers, as well as one unbeliever and another.

2.But an even more interesting question is why an unbeliever would want a Christian to treat him according to Christian standards of conduct.

After all, an unbeliever regards Christian ethics as unethical from the standpoint of secular ethics. Unbelievers typically demonize Bible morality.

So why in the world would an unbeliever want to be treated according to the canons of a false value system?

If anything, you’d expect an unbeliever to complain about being treating according to Christian values, and be grateful whenever a Christian is inconsistent.

For example, would an unbeliever really want Cotton Mather to treat the him consistent with Mather’s Puritanical principles?

Unbelievers can’t make up their minds about how they want Christians to treat them. We’re either blamed for being too Christian or too un-Christian. Which is it?

3.I’m at least as nice to the average apostate as Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett or Bertrand Russell or Robert Ingersoll or Sam Harris is to the average Christian.

Why do unbelievers get so lathered up when I treat a secularist according to secular standards of conduct?

If they demonize Christian ethics, then what’s the alternative? If they don’t want us to treat them according to a Christian code of conduct, then what’s the alternative?

The only alternative would be some form of secular ethics. But when we borrow their yardstick and return the favor, they act as if we’d done them a grave injustice.

Once again, unbelievers can’t make up their minds about how we should treat them. If we talk to them or about them the same way that Dawkins or Dennett or Russell or Ingersoll or Harris talk about Christians, then they wax indignant.

4.Finally, unbelievers, or at least militant unbelievers, seem to think they should be treated with the utmost respect while they treat God with the utmost disrespect.

Here’s the deal: I’ll treat you as respectfully as you treat the Lord.

Imagine someone who went out of his way to disrespect my father or mother or sister or brother, but expected me to be respectful in return. Respect is a two-way street.

21 comments:

  1. As you've noted, non-Christians pick on the Bible for its morality.

    They constantly tell us how mean the people are in the Bible, how mean Jesus was, etc.

    Funny that if you act in a way they consider "mean" they call you "unchristian" while simultaniously pointing out the even Jesus was a meany.

    So, to be Christian to them is to be un-Christ-like to them.

    They either need to drop their criticisms of Jesus, or drop their criticisms of us, they can't hold both.

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  2. Steve,

    What would you consider passages that demonstrate the treatment of apostates vs. the treatment of believers? Jesus had some pretty harsh words for the Pharisees and scribes, but I don't believe they would count as "apostates" per se. I suppose Alexander the Coppersmith comes to mind.

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  3. Poor Steve...

    He's confused as usual. No need to explain or rationalize your hate and bigotry towards people like Loftus, everyone who reads your tripe knows what you are.

    There is no such thing as a "Christian" standard of treatment. Christians run the gamut from selfless, loving, caring missionaries to egostistical, self-righteous, psuedo-intellectual blowhards who spend their days trying to insult those who don't subscribe to their particular theology.

    Don't get me wrong, we're all quite thankful you're not Calvin, and the rest of us are living in fear of you in Geneva in 1550.

    No one should expect that there is any "Christian" standard of treatment. Christianity is filled with pompous jerks like Steve, Frank Walton and Fred Phelps types. Their religion is simply an avenue to stroke their egos and tear down their enemies...nothing more. It's like a game.

    Oh...and by the way...the bible is just a collection of ancient literature. It doesn't have any "standard", and it doesn't "treat people" in any way. People have standards, and people treat people certain ways, and your example is clear to anyone who reads your crap.

    Calling yourself a 'Christian' or claiming that you adhere to some nebulous Christian or biblical "standard", is just so much more cheap talk from the king of the frustrated Christian Pharisees - Steve Hays.

    No one is mistaking you or Paul Manata as the shining example of Jesus, and no one expects you to be anything other than the pretentious, pompous, frustrated, theologians that you are.

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  4. Steve,

    However, secular critics have a very shaky grasp of Christian ethics.

    Perhaps those who weren't Christians for a number of years...

    Although the Bible has the same standard for believer and unbeliever alike, it doesn’t treat believers and unbelievers alike, for the obvious reason that believers and unbelievers are unlike.

    This is another difficult thing for me to respond to. I can cite OT verses that certainly differentiate between the Jew and Gentile, Pauline verses that basically say to consider the conscience of the other in your outward activities [1 Cor 10:29, etc], and verses by Jesus pointing out that how one treats another person who doesn't love them is the measure of goodness, since it is easy/natural to love those who love us back.

    I suppose in general, I don't whine much on how I'm treated, as most people are reciprocators, and I've found little difference in Christians and anyone else in this regard.

    But an even more interesting question is why an unbeliever would want a Christian to treat him according to Christian standards of conduct.

    I think more often the unbeliever uses what she/he sees as an inconsistency on the part of the xian in an argument [althought it may be a poor method of making ones point].

    So why in the world would an unbeliever want to be treated according to the canons of a false value system?

    Again, it really depends on which verses you want to emphasize. Certainly, the Confuscian/Epicurean/Jesus ethical precept of reciprocity [do unto others] is certainly an agreeable enough ethos. Conversely, killing an apostate to prevent them from leading you away from God, as commanded in the OT, is not a value system I want my treatment based upon.

    Unbelievers can’t make up their minds about how they want Christians to treat them. We’re either blamed for being too Christian or too un-Christian. Which is it?

    I can't speak for all unbelievers, nor you for all believers, so I would simply say that reciprocity is a principle that human beings generally abide by and relate well by.

    Why do unbelievers get so lathered up when I treat a secularist according to secular standards of conduct?

    Again, it depends on your secularist's values, doesn't it? Whatever values they base their morality upon will determine their extrinsic behavior, correct? I base my morality, generally, upon the principle of reciprocity, but a slightly improved [IMHO] version over the "as you want to be treated" into "as they want to be treated".

    In most cases, the way you want to be treated and they way they do align perfectly, but in some cases [esp concerning religion] this isn't true. Personally, I have little problem with the tria-boogers in general and their standard of conduct. You've gone a bit abrasive at times in your treatment of my fellow apostates, sometimes a little out of balance, but you know the old saying about heat, the kitchen, and leaving...

    Once again, unbelievers can’t make up their minds about how we should treat them. If we talk to them or about them the same way that Dawkins or Dennett or Russell or Ingersoll or Harris talk about Christians, then they wax indignant.

    Picking these examples is a bit disingenuous though. It's like me basing my appraisal of your behavior towards atheists on Mather, Calvin, or some fun fellow from the Spanish Inquisition. I admit, IOW, that these you've listed could be harsh. Ingersoll was probably the most eloquent and articulate of the lot you named, though, and a hell of an orator. In his essays and speeches, I am unaware of him saying something as offensive as Dawkins or Harris have. [i could just be ignorant of it]

    Finally, unbelievers, or at least militant unbelievers, seem to think they should be treated with the utmost respect while they treat God with the utmost disrespect.

    This is, of course, the root cause of much of your angst when you do treat unbelievers less respectfully than they treat you [exbrainer?]. I don't think there's an easy answer there, but atheological arguments can always be framed in a civil and politic manner. I think we've succeeded in demonstrating that.

    Paul,

    What you said only makes sense if the person is criticizing you for being "unchristian". If the person is criticizing both you and Jesus for your [parallel] morality, then how is it that they "can't hold both"? Very few people criticize the sermon on the mount, or matt 6, etc. They (95% of the time or better) criticize something Paul or one of the OT characters wrote.

    I think 95% of the Christians I've ever known and met and am still related to resemble Paul/OT figures very little with respect to their daily behavior and manners towards those with whom they disagree. Most Christians I know are nice people. So are most atheists I know [notable nameless exceptions in both categories, of course]

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  5. Funny that if you act in a way they consider "mean" they call you "unchristian" while simultaniously pointing out the even Jesus was a meany.

    Paul,

    I think it's wonderful that you no longer beat people with your fists and you just try and do it with your words now.

    Praise Gawd!

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  6. Steve,

    Will you consider turning off anonymous comments, if just for a week or two, so that flame wars don't get started here on your blog as well?

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  7. Anon,

    I am still amazed at the amount of time you spend reading and responding to this "tripe".

    Is it because you really have gracious feelings towards Steve and Paul and are trying desparately to save them ;-)

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  8. But when we borrow their yardstick and return the favor, they act as if we’d done them a grave injustice.

    You paint with way too wide a brush, Steve. I'd be more than happy if a Christian would govern himself according to my code. Most in fact do without realizing it, but few seem to take their Christian teachings to heart, which does not bother me - it just makes them hypocrites.

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  9. Manata: "Funny that if you act in a way they consider "mean" they call you "unchristian" while simultaniously pointing out the even Jesus was a meany."

    This overlooks a major discrepancy between the behavior that the Bible *models* and the behavior that it *prescribes*. As usual, the Christian has his head buried in the sand.

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  10. The only difference between Christians and non-believers, is that Christians like Steve and Paul can act any way they like towards someone else, and still smugly claim they are adhering to their personal god's "absolute" moral standard.

    It's quite amusing.

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  11. The only difference between Christians and non-believers, is that Christians like Steve and Paul can act any way they like towards someone else, and still smugly claim they are adhering to their personal god's "absolute" moral standard.

    Very good point. They just layer their religion's stamp of approval on whatever they do, claim that critics never understand, and pretend that no one else has a moral standard or basis to criticize theirs. Adulthood for a Christian is nothing more than the teenage years of a born-againer.

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  12. Anonymous and biscuit,

    If you really think what you've posted here, you clearly don't understand the Christian faith. By the tone of what you posted, it doesn't sound like you're honest inquirers either. Dropping in these little bombs isn't aiding the discussion. Try taking up an actual argument with Paul or Steve and display the kind of moral standard you espouse....thanks

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  13. I hope along with Daniel Morgan,
    that the silly flame wars don't occur here...
    I mean, its one thing at discomfiriting, but not on here and Daniel MOrgan's place, and Debunking Christianity...

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  14. If you really think what you've posted here, you clearly don't understand the Christian faith.


    And right on cue, as biscuit predicted, we hear the favorite siren song of the alleged "believer":

    You don't understand the "faith".

    Were not talking about your "faith", S&BL. We're talking about the tactics certain people use to justify their particular treatment of others they don't care for.

    If John Loftus claims that Steve or some other Christian has treated him poorly, they simply claim he's being inconsistent since he doesn't believe in their "absolute" moral standard. And when Steve treats Loftus oe someone else poorly, he can simply rationalize his behavior and claim he is following the absolute standard of the one true god.

    You see, their is no "Christian" morality, there is only human morality. Christians don't agree on any ethical standard, thus they simply justify their own standard by claiming it is the same as their personal god's standard. No surprise.

    And on the internet, I don't see much difference between the way Triabloguers treat others, versus the way Loftus treats others.

    It just constant snide remarks, insults and chest beating all around.

    So if you want to fall back to "oh my...we are all just hopeless sinners...thank goodness we Christian sinners who treat people badly are "saved" and yer not...", that's fine. But please don't try to pretend that folks like Paul or Steve or Frank Walton treat anyone any differently then John Loftus or Richard Dawkins.

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  15. So they're all nasty jerks, including you?

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  16. Yep...I just don't pretend I'm not.

    See the difference?

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  17. Daniel Morgan said:

    Steve,

    Will you consider turning off anonymous comments, if just for a week or two, so that flame wars don't get started here on your blog as well?

    ***************************************

    1. Danny,

    Why would I turn off anonymous comments in the off chance that a flame war might break out on my blog?

    If it did flare up here, I could put out the sparks before it got out of control.

    But I'm not going to take preemptive action over a bare hypothetical. A nonevent.

    2. And as far as anonymous comments go, most of the flame-throwers are turned in my direction, so if I can take it, why can't anyone else?

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  18. Anonymous,

    You said:

    The only difference between Christians and non-believers, is that Christians like Steve and Paul can act any way they like towards someone else, and still smugly claim they are adhering to their personal god's "absolute" moral standard.

    Me: You cannot act any way you want as a Christian. That is a false assertion. You made a general statement about all Christians and then targeted Paul and Steve. If you have a problem with Paul and Steve you should address them and not make a sweeping generalization. There is an absolute moral standard in Scripture that is summed up in the Ten Commandments. You may dispute the understanding and application of those commandments, but they're still there.

    Biscuit said:

    They just layer their religion's stamp of approval on whatever they do, claim that critics never understand, and pretend that no one else has a moral standard or basis to criticize theirs.

    Me: Again, another false assertion based on an incorrect understanding of Christian morality. I don't pretend unbelievers don't have a moral standard, of course they do, but it's usually an outward moral standard (no place is given for the inner man and the sins of the heart, such as lust and covetousness) and it is borrowed from Christianity. You can spot an atheistic standard when it only touches outward moral behavior.

    I'm not inclined to get in a lengthy discussion about the absolute moral standard revealed in Scripture. It has been discussed many times before. Since you stated there was no moral standard, I must conclude you don't understand the Christian faith. I'm not belittling you, I'm just stating my observation based upon what you said...thanks

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  19. I will admit, hands up here, that I have in the past acted hypocritically. And so has every other person who has ever drawn breath. Why? Because we all know that we could do better than we actually do. Every man knows more than he practises. The only person who does not violate his own personal moral code on a regular basis is someone with a very low moral code.

    When to fight and when to hold one's piece? When facing a bully, it is better to fight than run, if you can. Bullies want people to run away, hence the invective.

    When facing a person who appears to honestly think that all Christians are would-be persecutors, simply for the sake of Christianity's good name, I have to argue against them.

    However, in both cases I do think a different tone helps. It shows just what sort of people these really are. In my experience, for example, the person who accuses all Christians of wanting to persecute people often (but not always) has something of the persecuting temper within them. They would like to see Christians labouring under cilvil disablities, banned from speaking in certain forums, politics, etc.

    However, we should never knowingly hand ammunition to our opponents, or act in such a way as to confirm certain stereotypes. May we do battle honourably, and that includes not sneaking back to do great harm, feeling our pride marred, as Digenes Akrities slew Maximo, not in the field, but afterward, and that by stealth.

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  20. Biscuit errs when declaring:

    'Adulthood for a Christian is nothing more than the teenage years of a born-againer.'

    Adulthood for a Christian should be, nay must be, more than that. To grow in faith, to grow in grace, to grow in knowledge, to bring all things subject to the Almighty God. The tragedy of too much Western Christianity is that it has the shallowness of the 'born-again' life.

    Daniel, while you disagree with the picking of Dawkins et. al, I fear that in the eyes of many, these men are representative. There are many same and responsible atheists, sadly it is the noisy people that get the mike.

    As for Matador, I wonder if he lives by his code, all the time. If so, what is it?

    The problem with the moral code of the atheist is not that it does not exist. It is not always that it is wrong. It is that its anchor is not securely fixed. A society that rejects God is like a ship dragging its anchor. At first, moral standards are high, sometimes even higher than when Christianity was dominant (Britain in the 1950s). But that can't last, either coercion becomes necessary (and that is not always possible), or slowly right and wrong are effaced. People walk by when they see a mugging, 'because it's none of their business,' children jeer at a funeral procession and throw stones. Young men in cars throw objects at cyclists on busy roads, churches are stones during services, faux-satanic graffiti is carved into tombstones, disabled people are mocked. Cases of cirrosis of the liver at 21 are not uncommon.

    All these have I seen with my own eyes, and I weep for the society that produced them. And I pray for it, too. 'No easy hope or lies will bring us to our goal...'

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  21. What I would like to know is what exactly is meant by the label apostate?

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