Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Anencephalic atheism

Looks like John Loftus is off his meds again. If you see him wandering around the neighborhood in his institutional PJs, please report him to the authorities, so the men in white coats can return him safely to his padded cell.

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2007/05/slavery-no-waynone.html

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2007/05/gloves-are-off-now-slavery-no-thousand.html

At the risk of interjecting a modicum of reason into his hysterical conniption fit, a few points are in order.

1.Always remember that all this moralizing verbiage is coming from the lips of John-nothing-is-intrinsically-evil-Loftus.

If atheism is true, then Southern slavery was amoral, just as everything else would be amoral if atheism is true.

2.You notice that he doesn’t carry on this way about social Darwinism, even though he subscribes to naturalistic evolution. And that’s because it’s quite a trick to condemn social Darwinism and commend evolutionary ethics at one and the same time.

3.He also talks about the pain and misery suffered by slaves. Again, though, this is just so much folk psychology. Where does that fit into a consistently physicalist philosophy of mind?

4.He also trots out his hobbyhorse about social conditioning to explain why smart people believe dumb things. But if that’s the explanation, then why doesn’t he treat social conditioning as an extenuating or exculpatory circumstance? Wouldn’t that appeal either mitigate or absolve one of guilt?

5. Then there’s the very revealing way in which he lets the Southern slave-masters off the hook. They were slaveholders because they didn’t know any better. It was all a misunderstanding, you see. If only God had been more explicit.

So Loftus will exculpate the slaveholders in order to inculpate God. His acquittal of Southern slave masters says a lot about his scale of values (or lack thereof), as well as his naiveté.

BTW, why this fixation on the Southern institution? What about slavery in Africa, Asia, and the Mideast?

6.Speaking as a Christian, my interpretation of their motives is considerably less charitable. The slave masters were blinded, in part, by economic self-interest. In addition, it was very convenient to have one’s very own harem.

7.Loftus’ argument, if you can call it that, is also lame-brained to the point of vegetation. Does he really believe that if only the Bible were more explicit, that this would prevent slavery of the antebellum variety?

Isn’t it pretty apparent that many men and women do many things explicitly forbidden in Scripture? How dumb does Loftus need to be to miss the obvious?

For example, Scripture does condemn sodomy as a complete abomination. Does that, of itself, prevent homosexuals from committing immorality?

8.And, no, “slavery” is not a “complete abomination” since “slavery” can denote a number of different things. For example, is indentured service a “complete abomination”?

9.Finally, he attacks the Christian faith because it supposedly necessitates intellectual suicide. Yet the same could be said for evolutionary psychology. So why does he sacrifice his intellectual before the altar of Darwin?

Maybe it’s because, in his case, intellectual suicide is not much of a sacrifice. His brand of anencephalic atheism has nothing to lose.

16 comments:

  1. If God wanted to condemn something like homosexuality, then he likewise did a poor job of it. Can your God communicate effectively or not? I think not.

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  2. According to Sam Harris, "The notion that the Bible is a perfect guide to morality is really quite amazing, given the contents of the book...We must also stone people to death for heresy, adultery, homosexuality..."

    http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=library&page=sharris_26_3

    So God did a very effective job of communicating to Sam Harris that Scripture condemns homosexuality.

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  3. John W. Loser has to believe that slavery in the South was like slavery in the Bible, otherwise he has no real argument. Can this girlie boy not get anything in his head? It must be his goofy looking hat.

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  4. AnnoyedPinoy5/02/2007 8:12 PM

    In one of his lectures, I once heard a bit of (the late) Dr. Bahnsen's views on capital punishment when it came to heretics in an ideal Christian state. He was open to revising his views as his understanding of Scripture increased. He advocated allowing those who held to Jehovahistic/Yahwehistic religions not to be put to death. Therefore, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews, Mormons (etc) would not be put to death for the crime of heresy.


    1. However, it seems that some religions are either more or less consistent with the teaching of the Old Testament. How does his criteria surmount the sorites paradox. How far can a religion deviate from "The Christian position" till it is no longer Jehovahistic and therefore be under the category of heretical? Jehovah's Witnesses theology is more "Christian" than Mormonism because the former is more consistent with eternal monotheism than the latter (which historically is polytheistic). Islam also teaches eternal monotheism (even a Transcendant God similar to Calvinism) even though it denies that Christ the final Revelation and prophet of of God. When it comes to God's Transcendance, Islam is closer than Jehovah's Witnesses to Evangelical theology (or more specifically Calvinistic theology [sorry Jason ;-) ]. The reverse is true when it comes to God's Immanence. Both are considered by some Christian apologists as being "*Christian* heresies" (Bahnsen was willing to call Islam a "Christian" heresy). Where (and how) does one draw the line?

    2. Being a REFORMED (and btw, charismatic) *BAPTIST*, I know how our theological forebears (with the Anabaptists) were persecuted by the magesterial Reformers AND by Catholics. That's why Baptists have historically advocated the freedom of conscience when it comes to religious beliefs. How do these facts fit in when it comes to dealing with this(these) issue(s)?

    3. Walter Kaiser stated once that his view was that while the Old Testament required capital punishment for 20 types of crimes (he said, some argue for 16), it seems that for all except one, there was the allowance for a ransom/substitution. The only exception being that of the crime of murder (Gen. 9). He argued for the allowance of substitution based on Numbers 35:31-32. Furthermore, we know that while Jewish tradition is not infallible, it does record some traditions and practices that could possibly originate to Moses. And we know that the Jews allowed for substitution (e.g. in the case of a woman who ought to have her hand cut off for defending/rescuing her husband by crushing the testicles of his combatant).

    4. Even Reformed Baptist apologist Dr. James White argued in his book (The Same Sex Controversy) that there are cases and instances when homosexuals were not (and presumably were not required to be) punished with death.

    I'd be interested in how Steve Hays (a Reformed Baptist himself) harmonizes and solves all these facts and problems. That is, assuming he's got the free time to do so. I'd also be interested to know what the other triabloggers would say about this topic.

    Thanks for the great apologetical website. I'm so glad that there are serious Christian apologists who are willing to deal "head on" with opposers and skeptics to Evangelical Christianity; and do so with greater depth than their opponents.

    James (AnnoyedPinoy)

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  5. James said:
    ---
    I'd also be interested to know what the other triabloggers would say about this topic.
    ---

    First, I'm likewise interested in what Steve would say :-)

    But I can give you my quick opinion (I don't have time at the moment to go completely in-depth, unfortunately--this will hopefully change after I no longer have to work overtime).

    Yes, substitution is allowed in most penalties of the Law. The "eye for an eye" was a way of saying that the punishment should fit the crime, not a legal order. In fact, it would be very difficult to actually carry out the sentence since gouging out someone's eye could cause more damage (including death) to the offender than he caused to the original victim, etc.

    Secondly, courts do have the means to enact some mercy without being unjust (we even use this in America today, where judges have a range of sentencing they can impose). Strict adherence to the Law (in a civic sense, not in a spiritual sense) is unfeasable, as there can always be extenuating circumstances that the Law simply cannot address. The Law may be seen as providing the maximum penalty allowed, with the ability for people to use reasoning and common sense to determine if an action deserves full punishment. And, of course, ultimately civic punishments are for civic order; the true scales of justice lie within God's hands.

    Even as punishments need not be fully imposed in all cases, there were some aspects of the Law that God instituted because man was too evil to follow the "pure" Law. For instance, Divorce was legal (meaning there were laws in place governing what divorces were valid, etc) despite the fact that God hates divorce. A "pure" Law would outlaw divorce, but God instituted lesser rules allowing divorce. This was a concession that God made due to the harden hearts of man. As such, we see that God Himself is merciful even in the Laws that He gives. Despite the fact that every sin deserves death, God doesn't make a Law for every sin (and, as Paul wrote: "sin is not counted where there is no law" (Romans 5:13)).

    Finally, there are some aspects of Old Testament Law that were instituted to ensure that the Messiah would be able to come to save His people. There is no reason for us to today adhere to the aspects of the Law that were necessary for the preservation of the Jewish line such that the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah and the line of David, etc.

    That, in a nutshell, is my take on the Law in general. If you want my opinion on anything more specific, let me know :-)

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  6. Christensen in KC5/02/2007 9:37 PM

    You know, I have been reading Slavery and Christianity by John Robbins of the Trinity Foundation, and it has given me a new perspective on Paul's letter to Philemon.

    Read carefully and you will see that Paul was condemning slavery.

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  7. --So God did a very effective job of communicating to Sam Harris that Scripture condemns homosexuality.


    Nice.

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  8. John,

    You've provided a couple of interesting links with some less than convincing arguments. Showing that a few Greek words are used in a variable fashion in other contexts is not going to blunt the force of the Bible's clear condemnation of homosexual acts; especially when certain Greek words used by Paul to refer to said acts are pulled from levitical prohibitions of homosexual relations (e.g., arsenokoitai, on which you can see my brief study of homosexuality in the Bible here).

    Now, it is true that the focus of Paul's argument in Rom. 1 is against idolatry, but the fact of the matter is that homosexual acts are portrayed as the FRUIT which proves the sinfulness of idolatry and its disordered nature.

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  9. Sorry, I've only time for a quick note as it's quite late:

    "I'd be interested in how Steve Hays (a Reformed Baptist himself)..."

    I could be wrong, but as I recall, Steve doesn't see himself as a confessional Reformed Baptist (e.g. the 1689 LBCF).

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  10. If atheism is true, then Southern slavery was amoral, just as everything else would be amoral if atheism is true.

    It seems this canard ought to be dealt with, eventually, but not in this thread. After all:
    1) The Bible could indeed advocate slavery without atheism being true.
    2) From (1), there could indeed be a god, one which simply didn't convey either -- (i) those particular slavery passages of the Bible; or (ii) the Bible in its entirety. Ie the Bible could be man-made and there could be a god with no handbook attached.
    3) There are many systems of values and morals which do not depend upon the existence of god(s), but do not necessarily conflict with one either -- utilitarianism, Kant's categorical imperative, Aristotle's view of "the good" in morality as "working according to function"...and it would seem that both John and Christians use these systems in matters where the Bible seems to be gray or silent.

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  11. Anonymous,

    You do realize that none of your point address the so-called "canard" at all, don't you?

    Steve's statement was an internal critique of atheism; whether God really spoke in the Bible or not is irrelevant to the self-consistency of atheism.

    I find it ironic that so many atheists, when they cannot defend their own belief system, retort: "Even if atheism is wrong, it doesn't prove Christianity right!" Amazingly left out of this equation is the fact that if atheism is wrong, atheism is wrong! Even though Christianity is not proven by the fact that atheism is wrong, that is no reason for a rational person to remain an atheist when it's been demonstrated atheism is wrong!

    It would be like arguing:

    1) X is false.
    2) 1) does not necessarily imply Y.
    3) Therefore, X.

    You said:
    ---
    There are many systems of values and morals which do not depend upon the existence of god(s), but do not necessarily conflict with one either
    ---

    Whether they conflict with each other is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that none of these "systems of values and morals" have any objective "teeth" to them in atheism. It can easily be demonstrated too.

    Nazis had a system of values and morals. So did the Baader-Meinhof terrorists. Show me why they were wrong but Kant or Aristotle weren't. If you cannot demonstrate that they were actually wrong, then you've admitted that any "system of values and morals" is valid, including contradictory ones. When all positions are right, none of them are.

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  12. CrazyManAndy5/03/2007 2:35 PM

    AnnoyedPinnoy,

    Here are a few articles written by Steve that I found in the archive:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2004/08/ot-today.html
    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2004/04/four-forms-of-christian-ethics.html

    CMA

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  13. Peter Pike,

    Steve attempted to derail the conversation onto atheism, and I am simply pointing out that:
    1) Whether the Bible sanctions slavery or not has nothing to do with atheism
    2) Philosophers (including Christians) since time out of mind have argued about morality, but I don't think anyone here is adopting the position that slavery is morally correct. Therefore, entertaining that notion is a red herring and only serves to, again, derail the conversation. We all agree that slavery is a moral evil. Whether we all agree on our moral reasoning is irrelevant to this particular discussion.

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  14. ANNOYEDPINOY SAID:

    “I'd be interested in how Steve Hays (a Reformed Baptist himself) harmonizes and solves all these facts and problems. That is, assuming he's got the free time to do so.”

    I plan to get around to this when I have the time. At the moment, there are a few other things I need to get out of the way first.

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  15. anonymous said...

    It seems this canard ought to be dealt with, eventually, but not in this thread. After all:_1) The Bible could indeed advocate slavery without atheism being true._2) From (1), there could indeed be a god, one which simply didn't convey either -- (i) those particular slavery passages of the Bible; or (ii) the Bible in its entirety. Ie the Bible could be man-made and there could be a god with no handbook attached._3) There are many systems of values and morals which do not depend upon the existence of god(s), but do not necessarily conflict with one either -- utilitarianism, Kant's categorical imperative, Aristotle's view of "the good" in morality as "working according to function"...and it would seem that both John and Christians use these systems in matters where the Bible seems to be gray or silent.

    anonymous said...

    Peter Pike,__Steve attempted to derail the conversation onto atheism, and I am simply pointing out that:_1) Whether the Bible sanctions slavery or not has nothing to do with atheism_2) Philosophers (including Christians) since time out of mind have argued about morality, but I don't think anyone here is adopting the position that slavery is morally correct. Therefore, entertaining that notion is a red herring and only serves to, again, derail the conversation. We all agree that slavery is a moral evil. Whether we all agree on our moral reasoning is irrelevant to this particular discussion.

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

    1.Loftus is an atheist. He is arguing for atheism. He is arguing for atheism by raising moralistic objections to Christian theism. He is assuming that slavery is immoral, and using that assumption to argue against the existence of God. Christians should deny their faith and embrace atheism due to the existence of slavery. This is a variant on the argument from evil.

    2.Hence, this debate has everything to do with atheism. That is how Loftus has chosen to frame the debate: theism v. atheism.

    3.In the combox of David Wood’s blog on the problem of evil, Loftus publicly admitted that he doesn’t believe anything is intrinsically good or evil.

    4.However, in his latest attack on the Christian faith, he speaks as if he personally believes that slavery is immoral.

    5.Even if my counterargument were irrelevant to atheism in general, it is relevant to Loftus. I’m answering him on his own level. If *he* is going to level this objection, then *he* needs to square his denial of intrinsic evil with his apparent affirmation that slavery is evil, and so evil as to constitute a defeater for Christian theism.

    6.But, to speak more generally, if an atheist is going to mount an argument from evil, and if he’s chosen to deploy an external version of the argument, then, yes, the onus lies squarely on his shoulders to justify secular ethics. That is a preliminary burden of proof that he is implicitly assuming, and one which he must discharge in advance of mounting the argument from evil.

    7.It isn’t enough to merely reference some secular theories of value. You must choose one and defend it.

    8.A number of a secular philosophers (e.g. Ruse, Russell, Richard Joyce, Quentin Smith) have admitted that atheism commits them to moral relativism. Indeed, they've argued for moral relativism on the very basis of atheism. So all I’ve done is to borrow a page from their own playbook.

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  16. Steve,

    I actually agree with you that Loftus cannot mount a positive argument for atheism from arguing that slavery is condoned in the Bible. That is, my points apply as much to destroy his reasoning as to point out that you seem to have missed that.

    So I agree with your point (2).

    As for your points (5) and (6), the best anyone (atheist or not) could do is mount an internal argument that the Bible is either logically inconsistent [say, in advocating human equality yet contradicting this in allowing for slavery], or mount an internal argument that slavery is shown to be morally evil from the Bible and then that the limits/outlines for slavery provided for the Bible contradict the nature being "good" by a blatant accommodation of evil.

    Personally, I don't believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, but I am logical enough to see that the following is a non sequitur:
    1) The Bible advocates slavery
    2) Therefore there is no god(s).

    You are as well, and I think John is, but he's not connected (1) to (2) with sufficient support or shown the dependence of (2) upon (1).

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