Friday, November 29, 2019

"Sorry Guys, It's Still Immoral" - A Response To CMI (part 10)

This blog post is part 10 in a series responding to the Creation Ministries International article, "Is The Bible Immoral?", where I take a rational look at the claims made by one of the more prominent Christian apologetics organisations in its defence that the Bible is not an immoral book.

Previous posts here:

The last major section of "Is The Bible An Immoral Book?" goes by the heading "Jesus Should Have Taught Us About Antibiotics".


(Note: CMI have a plethora of articles available to peruse over at https://creation.com/qa, including some which may already answer points I have made in this series. Head on over, have a read, compare both sides of the argument!)

-----
The narrator goes on to make the claim that if Jesus was truly God, He should have taught us about things like antibiotics, painkillers, and other things that would provide an immediate improvement to the quality of life. On the surface, this may seem persuasive. But Jesus came with a much more important and eternal mission...

Not only antibiotics and painkillers, but also things like how to grow and harvest enough food to feed a global population of 6 billion people, how to produce potable water, inventing the printing press, even basics like electricity (which ironically ran through and powered Jesus' body, yet he never said anything about it).

Jesus was the creator of everything (as per John's theology), so it's not like he didn't know all this.

But then, the crux of it comes down to what your definition of morality is - is your morality about maximising human well-being and reducing pain and suffering; or is your morality about making sure the feelings of an infinitely great and powerful God aren't hurt because someone ate shellfish? If Jesus' morality was to overturn the rules about eating shellfish to ensure God's feelings aren't hurt, then I guess mission accomplished.

To me, that fact that Jesus (should have known) that bacteria exists and also how to avoid infections, but didn't say anything whatsoever on the topic indicates that either Jesus actually didn't know those things (meaning he isn't all-knowing), didn't know how to communicate those things (meaning he isn't all-capable), or that he didn't want to communicate those things (making him all-culpable).

---

...and His righteous life and sacrificial death made it possible for us to be saved from much worse things than temporal sickness and pain.

If it could rationally and objectively proven that Jesus' death has saved even just one person from something worse than sickness or pain, I'd be willing to believe the statement.

But to accept Cosner's assertion relies on a prior belief in not only the afterlife, but the version of the afterlife specific to Christianity. However, when we look at it, proof for the Christian afterlife is based on four things: a book, belief in a book, logical fallacies, and testimony from people whose brains were starved of oxygen.

---
If one accepts that Jesus actually died and suffered the punishment for sin in our place, to argue that He did not do enough becomes unforgivably arrogant and ungrateful.

Actually, if Jesus is the son of God and knows everything, there's no reason why he can't do both - teach us about bacteria, electricity and the printing press, as well as the way to Heaven. From all accounts, Jesus just did stuff with wood up until he decided it was time for ministry. The ancient world didn't need another carpenter - it needed knowledge!

The irony of it all is that despite Jesus being the son of God, I, a mere mortal writing in the 21st century, can access and utilise more useful knowledge than he did.

---
It is also said that Jesus should have overturned His culture’s view of sexuality, women’s roles, and other social issues. This ignores the fact that during His earthly life and ministry, He was regarded as a peasant itinerate Jewish preacher. He had no social standing by which to proclaim any of that...

Jesus can overturn tables and kill plants, but he can't get himself in to a position of society-wide influence to dictate how the people of his time should treat women, instead waiting for humanity to develop a culture and morality that regards gender fairness and equitability as a good thing (and then retroactively take the credit)?

The excuse that "...he was regarded as just a peasant itinerant preacher" indicates that Jesus just didn't have the impact that his acolytes tell us he did. Either Jesus was so famous because overturned centuries of religious tradition to usher in a new wave of morality - which then doesn't explain the lack of historical corroboration for his existence; or he was merely thought of as a peasant preacher, amongst a sea of Jewish itinerant wannabe-messiahs, which means there was nothing special or noteworthy about him (aside from the fact that he was an itinerant Jewish messiah figure in a culture awash with itinerant Jewish messiah figures).

Fundamentalists can't have it both ways - he can't be the most fantastic man who ever lived, yet was not able to impact culture at the time because of his obscurity.

---
Furthermore, advances in science were made possible by the Christian world view, and were stillborn in cultures like Greece and China, which the narrator presumably prefers.

This is hilariously bad. 

1. The author displays a large amount of ignorance on the subject of the history of science. Because far from being stillborn, the Greeks and the Chinese were, at times, at the forefront of technology and science.
A brief rundown of scientific and technological advances include:

Paper, gunpowder, the printing press and the compass are all attributed to the Chinese
And when we consider the Greeks, we have Archimedes with his levers, geography courtesy of Eratosphenes, the chain drive system, and not forgetting that it was the Greeks who came up with atomic theory - the Greeks understood more about how stuff was formed more than the Jews who worshipped the God who allegedly made the stuff the Greeks were studying!

Anyone who insinuates that science in Greece or China was stillborn (meaning it didn't produce or amount to anything) either doesn't know their history, or is trying to re-write history to fit a certain narrative.

2. The author then forgets who it was that helped advance mathematics, astronomy and science in the mediaeval ages, at the very time Christians were trying to stifle it in Europe. 
Has the author ever heard of algebra? An algorithm? Does the author know who made the numbering system we use in the western world today? She should thank the Muslims for that!

3. Science has indeed become a prominent feature of the western world. But again, even if we are to credit Christianity with it, it is Christianity as a social movement rather than Christianity the henotheistic trinitarian religion. If it was Christianity the religion driving scientific discoveries, Jesus would have been out there with a lab coat showing us the way because it was Jesus who created everything and wanted to teach us science and how to improve our lives.

But it wasn't. Because he wasn't. Because he didn't. Because he was at best just an itinerant preacher amongst a sea of itinerant preachers, or at worst a celestial being around whom grew rapid legendary accretion.

But the author doesn't seem to even consider that before secular government ruled the world, during the Dark, Middle and Victorian ages in particular, anyone who did not toe the society-wide theological line was virtually ostracised.
It's a bit hard to make it out that Christianity has always been this welcoming, warm, fluffy, feel-good benevolent force behind society, when it was more the case that either you were a Christian or you were set on fire.

The scientists and naturalists of the Victorian period just happened to be Christian, rather than scientists and naturalists becoming Christians en masse because someone proclaimed the Bible to be the most scientifically accurate book ever.

---
Atheism and evolution have contributed nothing to science;

*facepalm*

To anyone who hasn't been swept into Fundamentalist Christian ideology, please know that the above statement is wholeheartedly wrong - so much so that it clearly betrays a lack of understanding of how science is done and by whom it is done.

If you are a Christian Fundamentalist reading this, please don't take my criticism as an atheist being critical for the sake of being critical - it's important to understand why I'm saying what I'm saying so you don't think I'm dismissing the argument out-of-hand.

Science doesn't care if you believe in God, gods or not - what it cares about is if you can prove what you are claiming. This is why when Dr. Francis Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project, talks about evolution, the most strident criticism of him comes from Fundamentalist Christians with a theological axe to grind - not from other scientists.

If theology were an important part of science, there should be no reason why both Dr. Francis Collins (a quiet and dedicated evangelical) and Professor Richard Dawkins (first of four horsemen of New Atheism) agree on the same topic.


I know apologists are more interested in propaganda and being selective, but aside from being both comically wrong and absurd, this list of atheist scientists, containing professors, associate professors and renown scientific authors, should help settle the point.

---
...note that one of the discoverers of penicillin, Ernst Chain, was an Orthodox Jew who was scathing of Darwinian evolution.

OK. Someone who did something important was scathing of evolution. There are plenty of people who are scathing of evolution - sometimes those people are wrong, and even if they were scathing of evolution for the correct reasons, then let them be scathing in a scientifically-valid method and argue it out in the scientific literature.

Fame and fortune awaits the person who can overturn one of the foundations of biological science!

---
It is easy to blame God for things that are the result of man’s sin and selfishness.

Actually, no. It is very hard to blame God for things that go wrong - you can't blame someone whose existence has not been proven.

Otherwise, I could just as logically blame the magic house fairies whenever the dishes don't get done.

---
For instance, the narrator claims that God should keep people from dying of starvation.

I agree - God should keep people from dying of starvation. A God that can do anything and a God that cares about human life and wants to see his beloved people live as long as possible should be doing everything in his power to do that, up to and including supernaturally increasing the food supply of a place in famine.

That would actually be one of the best proofs of both God's existence and his power - wheat and crops miraculously growing in an area that has been hit by years of drought and famine and nary a raincloud to be seen!

But that is not what we see. God seemingly would rather stick to his theological guns of 'working in mysterious ways' than miraculously stop starving people in Africa from dying.

---
But the world already produces more than enough food to feed every person alive

Now, let's ask the hard question - why is that? Did we get to the point where we are producing enough food to feed the entire world by using science, or did we get to that point by using theology?

Does the world produce enough food for six billion people people of the use of technology and understanding of agriculture and geology, or does the world produce enough food for six billion people because specific people pray using specific words to a specific god?

I rest my case.

---

In a world where humans hadn’t rebelled against God, there wouldn’t be any starvation, disease, etc., so it’s our fault because every person who ever lived (except Jesus, the perfect Last Adam) has rebelled against the Creator.

I love it when apologists say unintelligent things like this. 

I summarise this argument as such:

"It's humanity's fault the world is like this. But I've been made clean and pure by the Blood of the Lamb which means I'm already doing something about it - so in reality it's your fault!"

To show you how nonsensical this kind of argument is, let us take the example of why flesh-eating bacteria exist. Assuming that the world was perfect before The Fall and that flesh-eating bacteria aren't part of a perfect world, this means that flesh-eating bacteria only came in to the world after, or even because of, The Fall. 
So what explanation can Creationism give to explain the existence of flesh-eating bacteria?

Evolution provides an adequate answer to that question. But let's see what options are available to the Creationist hypothesis:

A. God caused flesh-eating bacteria to suddenly exist - but then this means that God deliberately created flesh-eating bacteria knowing full-well the pain and suffering they would cause. And a God that deliberately creates micro-organisms that cause pain and suffering is not interested in morality;


B. Satan caused the flesh-eating bacteria to suddenly exist - but then this contradicts the Bible because the Bible says that all things were created by Jesus and for Jesus, which presumably includes flesh-eating bacteria because flesh-eating bacteria are a thing;

C: Adam, a primitive man, suddenly had both the technology and the will to genetically engineer flesh-eating bacteria - but this is just nonsense, and is also not mentioned in the Bible (which means it can't fit a Literalist narrative);

Or D: God pre-emptively created flesh-eating bacteria before The Fall, but caused them to lay dormant until he decided they needed to be unleashed - this both makes the existence of flesh-eating bacteria God's fault and God's fault alone. No Fall needed.

None of the options available under the Creationist hypothesis either make sense or make God out to be good.

---
Many people ask why God doesn’t do something about death and suffering, if He really is a God of love. But He has; He sent Jesus Christ to die in our place to save us from eternal death and suffering.

Saying that someone's problems in life don't really matter in the grand scheme of things because a Jewish preacher with the ability to psychically communciate with his followers
rose from the dead 2000 years ago to save us from the eternal torture pit that his dad created is frankly an insult.

But hold on - if God is a god of love, why is there an eternal torture pit in the first place?

To repeat a point I made elsewhere: Christian morality is not about maximising human health and wellbeing - it's just placating Yahweh, the Israelite war god.

---
Temporary suffering, even intense suffering, can be beneficial in an eternal perspective if it leads someone to Jesus, saving them from eternal separation and suffering in Hell.

The ends justify the means.

You know who else endorses this kind of argument? William Lane Craig when discussing why killing children and infants in process of committing a war crime is a good thing:


I would say that God has the right to give and take life as He sees fit. Children die all the time! If you believe in the salvation, as I do, of children, who die, what that meant is that the death of these children meant their salvation

If William Lane Craig represents the most sophsiticated and refined arguments for Christianity, then all I can say is that to be a Biblical Christian, you need to twist your morality and sacrifice your humanity.

And I don't think Cosner is straying too far from this apologetic either.

-----

So, to summarise this segment, the reason Jesus isn't culpable of failing to teach humanity about antibiotics and painkillers, despite their obvious benefit to mankind, is because he was an awesome preacher.

Yeah, that totally makes Jesus the most awesome and revolutionary person who ever lived...

But hold on - if Jesus was in a position to teach us about antibiotics and painkillers, but he failed to do so, isn't that technically non-feasance, you know, the preferred doctrine of the skeptics?

-----

In the next post, I will summarise the arguments made to tie this series up.

I hope you've enjoyed the series and that it has provoked deep and critical thought.

- Damien (quiterationaldad@gmail.com)




Friday, November 22, 2019

"Sorry Guys, It's Still Immoral" - A Response To CMI (part 9)

This blog post is part 9 in a series responding to the Creation Ministries International article, "Is The Bible Immoral?", where I take a rational look at the claims made by one of the more prominent Christian apologetics organisations in its defence that the Bible is not an immoral book.

Previous posts here:

The next section of "Is The Bible An Immoral Book?" goes by the weighty heading "Jesus: Not Original And Not Moral?".


So begins the next part of my response. This one is slightly lengthy (but not as lengthy as the next section).


(Note: CMI have a plethora of articles available to peruse over at https://creation.com/qa, including some which may already answer points I have made in this series. Head on over, have a read, compare both sides of the argument!)

---
Another video making the rounds argues that Jesus’ ‘moral contributions are not original, and his original contributions are not moral

And let me guess - CMI's web editor ain't gonna tell you what that video is called or where to find it. I don't want to sound like I'm flogging a dead horse, but it does make debate and dialogue hard.

To answer the point at hand, on the face of it, a lot of what we give Jesus credit for were either just re-worked Jewish principles, or were principles we would eventually reach by the principles of secular humanism anyway (or even be outdone by secular humanism - the abolition of slavery, anyone?).

But without seeing the video, I can't make a point by point case.

---
The first, well-worn argument is that the ‘Principle of Reciprocity’ predates Christianity by millennia and is found in practically every religious tradition, so Christianity cannot claim the Golden Rule as uniquely a teaching of Jesus.

If numerous independent cultures came to the same principle without Jesus, in this case 'The Golden Rule', this indicates that that The Golden Rule didn't need a Jesus to make it.

If no cultures whatsoever prior to Jesus had instituted a version of The Golden Rule, and The Golden Rule only came in to existence because of Jesus, and then no other culture that has been isolated from Christianity ever came up with a version of The Golden Rule, then Christianity can claim credit.

But it hasn't happened that way.

---
But the positive command ‘do unto others as you would have them to unto you’ is a real moral advance over negative commands to the effect of ‘don’t do to others what you would not want done to you.’ The former encompasses the latter but adds a new element that the other didn’t have.

This is swinging for the fences. Just because Jesus (is quoted as) rewording a principle that has existed in independent and isolated cultures to make it a positive tense does not make it far better, far superior or a real moral advance. It's literally just saying the same thing in another way.

Otherwise, the author then has to admit that the Ten Commandments aren't much chop because they are mostly "Thou shalt not..." commands as opposed to "Thou shalt...".

But even if I accept the author's assertion that because Jesus worded it in a positive sense it is soooooo much better, the basic fact of it is that all Jesus did was tweak a concept already in existence. The end consequence of the author's argument is that Jesus, the son of God, the word made flesh, doer of wonderful works and the agent of creation, came to earth just so that he could tweak a moral precept that was already in existence, already widely known and that he didn't even invent.

But this isn't the worst of it. After researching the topic, I'm pretty much convinced the author hasn't even read the Wikipedia article on The Golden Rule, let alone considered and evaluated other viewpoints.

If it is positive versions of The Golden Rule that Cosner considers valid and awesome, then look no further than Islam:
As you would have people do to you, do to them; and what you dislike to be done to you, don't do to them.


This one expands even further on the one Jesus gave by giving both a positive and a negative inflection. Talk about a real moral advance that is far superior!

Want more? Let's look at the Baha'i faith:


Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself.


I'll give you one more - Hinduism:


Those acts that you consider good when done to you, do those to others, none else.


I'll encourage you to look up more versions of The Golden Rule and decide if Christianity's is way better.

In my viewpoint, they're all saying the same thing, just in different words.

---
We see this in current American law which has only the preferred doctrine of the skeptics—it’s called non-feasance... 
This is interesting for a number of reasons:

1. There is no 'preferred doctrine of the skeptics' (except maybe to enforce church-state separation, which even some Christians support) - this is just anti-atheist guff.

2. There is no 'preferred doctrine of the skeptics', because there is no authoritative doctrine behind skepticism. The only thing authoritative regarding atheism is that you're skeptical of the existence of gods.

To say something like this is to firstly misunderstand skepticism and atheism, and secondly, is a blatant straw-man.

While Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, et al are the most popular atheists in the modern era, they do not define atheism or skepticism - contrary to popular belief, atheism isn't a monolithic set of prescribed beliefs. The only entry requirement to the atheist club is that you're not convinced of the existence of gods - after that, you make your own way.
It is entirely possible be an atheist and still believe religion is a force for good in the world.

3. The remark "preferred doctrine of the skeptics" comes across as snide because it seems the author really wants to make it sound like skeptics don't care if you drown.
And attempting to portray the legal principle of non-feasance as making it sound like a commandment to not help drowning people, then tying it with atheism (because atheists are obviously evil) is, yet again, is guilt-by-association.

4. There is nothing in being skeptical of the existence of gods that makes you prefer to not have the responsibility to rescue your fellow man. All being skeptical of the existence of gods makes you is skeptical of the existence of gods.

5. In my opnion, the benefit of the principle of non-feasance is so that people don't go down the street being scared of being prosecuted for not acting when they either didn't know and was not in a position to act.

Non-feasance is not to say you can't or you shouldn't or you mustn't act if you are in a position to - it's just that if you don't and you don't have an established legal responsibility, you're not going to face a long and expensive legal battle to clear your name.

I know Christianity wants to control what you think, what you do and what you say, that you must obey God's choice for who you marry, God's choice for where you study, God's choice for where you work, and even God's choice for where you live (making Christianity a theological police state), but thankfully non-theism is a lot more relaxed.

6. The most damning point of all? While I could only find hard statistics for the Supreme Court, if we take the Supreme Court as a representative sample of the general US justice system - the same one that helped create the legal concept of non-feasance - almost every single justice of the Supreme Court of the US has been either Protestant, Catholic or Jewish.

And if we look at the 116th US Congress, 88% are Christian and 6% are Jewish.

If the author wants to make a snide comment that non-feasance is the preferred doctrine of the skeptics, the people who are on the same side of the theological fence as her must obviously think that non-feasance is the preferred option as well - otherwise they would have changed it!

---
Jesus’ command is clearly far superior:

To whose? Certainly not Mohammad's.

---


The narrator makes the ‘generous’ concession that as a general rule, it’s okay, but we wouldn’t want a sado-masochist following the rule. This, however, is taking something that’s meant as a general principle and giving it a highly unlikely interpretation in a very narrow specific context...
 ...Furthermore, even under its own terms, this can be refuted. A masochist desires pleasure, even though his warped means of achieving this is suffering pain. So his application of the Golden Rule principle is to cause pleasure to others, not pain, since pain causes displeasure in most. 

I'm actually going to criticise both the original video AND the author because they both got something wrong (as far as I can tell - again, no link to the original means missing data):

Sado-masochists only inflict pain when they're having sex - it's not like sado-masochists walk down the street in their gimp outfits whipping people willy-nilly.

[However, Christian street preachers and YouTube content creators deliberately attempt to inflict feelings of guilt and shame at passers-by and viewers. I bet CMI give these guys a free pass]

But despite what anyone says, The Golden Rule still applies - if two people willingly enter in to a sexual relationship where physical pain is inflicted, then that is doing unto others as you would have them do unto you - entering in to a consensual sexual relationship and agreeing to terms with another person, as you would have them enter into a sexual relationship and agree to terms unto you!

---
The video claims that Jesus made three new ethical contributions, all of which are deeply flawed. First, it is claimed that Matthew 5:39‘But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also’ is immoral, because non-resistance to evil allows evil to flourish. But it must be noted that this is only addressing personal interactions, involving offense to oneself.

Again, I find myself in some agreeance with the author, as well as finding some fault with the logic of the original video creator.

The best outcome would be to have a world where people didn't slap each other or saw violence as a way to solve problems. The problem here is that Jesus is quoted as saying, "Do not resist an evildoer" which is a pretty lame way of reducing the amount of evil in the world - if we extrapolated this concept, we would have no need for jails or police because no-one is resisting evil-doers enough to be interested in justice.

But as well, on a personal level, this may be subject to one sort of interpretation, yet what would Jesus say about military action? Would Jesus' command to turn the other cheek be the right response in the wake of the 9/11 attacks?

---
Rather, it is saying that in personal actions, we are to be ready to endure a second blow, rather than retaliate in kind. This would be honorable behavior in the ancient world, and the violent person would be shamed.

Isn't this an implicit admission that what Jesus said was meant for the ancient context it was written in, rather than something that is universally applicable in modern times?

---
The second ‘atrocity’ ascribed to Jesus is His claimed ability to forgive sins. The narrator claims this is a blank check for all sorts of evil behavior, since Jesus can simply forgive, meaning there are no consequences. But first, it’s never claimed that God’s forgiveness takes away earthly consequences.

Two problems:

1. The assertion that God's forgiveness never takes away earthly consequences is contradicted numerous times in the scripture.

Numerous times, God's forgiveness causes God to either delay punishing someone, or completely ameliorate the punishment.

For example, 2 Kings 22:20 quotes God as saying that he will delay punishment until the regent of the day has died.
Jonah 3:10 has God completely deciding not to punish Nineveh because of their repentance.

This makes the author's theology and assertions false.

2. If God's forgiveness doesn't take away earthly consequences, but only deals with spiritual consequences, how do you determine that a consequence a person experiences on earth has been bought about spiritually rather than for earthly reasons?

Or, if the punishment gets delayed to the afterlife, how then do you determine that God indeed has punished the person in the afterlife?

Because under Fundamentalist theology, it is entirely possible that a serial killer can be rewarded with an eternity in heaven after a final meal of fried chicken and Coca-Cola because God accepted the prayer of someone who is about to die, without realising the irony that that same God did absolutely nothing regarding the victims or the families of the victims that that same serial killer impacted when they were about to die.

So much for morality and justice...

---

The third ‘ethically questionable’ teaching is that one should love one’s neighbors as oneself. The narrator claims that this is an injunction to love indiscriminately, and ‘brutalizes the notion of love.’ 

To me, to love one's neighour as oneself is merely a rewording of The Golden Rule. So, surprise of surprises, if I take the author's paraphrasing of the video she is criticising at face value, then I agree with the author's critical tone.

To reach the notion that Jesus' (quoted) command to love one's neighbour as themselves 'brutalises the notion of love' is true only if you completely remove all nuance.

But, once more, I don't know what the original video is trying to say and what case they are making - I'm relying on what the author is relaying.

But, to move forward, the world would indeed be a better place if people loved each other as much as they did themselves.

But this leads to a hard question: is The Golden Rule (and all variations of it found in the scriptures) in the Bible because they are good, or are they good because they are in the Bible?

---
Rather, it is the skeptical understanding of love that brutalizes it—reducing it to a feeling rather than will and action.

Love is both - a feeling, displayed by actions.

-----

Guys, this was a long and tough one. And the longest and toughest one is coming up.

Stay strong...

-Damien (quiterationaldad@gmail.com)




Guest Appearance On Unwoke Ungit Podcast

Last night, I had the pleasure of having an indepth chat with Lewis Ungit, which was recorded to become an epsiode of the Unwoke Ungit podc...