Sunday, March 7, 2010

Does Immorality Cause Atheism?

PREACHER: I challenge you to read this book: The Making of An Atheist by James S. Speigel. And make sure that you read it all. I am thoroughly disgusted with those who refuse to even read what their opponents say.

SKEPTIC: Okay. I've put it on my Kindle. I must say, though, that the title seems to be intentionally deceptive. "The Making of an Atheist" sounds like a book written by an atheist about atheism, not a book attacking atheism. And I've already taken offense to his description of atheism in his summary:

"I give an account as to how the delusion [atheism] occurs, showing that atheistic rejection of God is precipitated by immoral indulgences, usually combined with some deep psychological disturbances, such as a broken relationship with one’s father."

Seriously? Atheists are immoral and psychologically disturbed people? I wonder if he could be any more insulting. "A broken relationship with one's father?" Isn't that the same causation that Christians attribute to gays (sorry...homosexuals)? Imagine the poor gay atheist! What a tragic messed-up life he must have had!

PREACHER: The title is not deceptive! The front of the book says, "How Immorality Leads to Unbelief." What did you think that meant? And yes, it's true! Gay atheists do have tragic messed-up lives. Even if they are having fun in the present, their futures are very bleak (unless they get the grace to repent). You really need to get over being offended and insulted by what your opponents say. We have no law that it is immoral to offend a non-believer. If offending you helps you come to the truth, then wouldn't it be good for you? And for the record, what you say sometimes offends and insults us, too. So get over it. We do.

SKEPTIC: Fine, if Speigel wants to call me a moral degenerate just because I don't believe in his fairy tales, I'm sure he won't get offended if I call him a pompous jackass. And by the way, atheists do not "reject God." How can you reject something you believe doesn't exist? Atheists reject the IDEA of God. Christians seem to think that atheists secretly believe in God, but have decided to tell The Big Guy, "Thanks, but no thanks."

PREACHER: Rejecting God and rejecting the IDEA of God sound the same to me. I suppose that the latter is a less emotionally charged way of rejecting. No real difference.

SKEPTIC: As long as we're recommending reading material, I'll recommend to you Bertrand Russell's classic essay from a lecture he delivered in London in 1927, the much more honestly titled "Why I Am Not a Christian."

PREACHER: Bertrand Russell was quite the intellect, activist, and "free thinker". He is also a textbook case for James Speigel. The web site you directed me to says that "He was married 4 times and had 3 children." Another source calls him a "misogynist and a serial adulterer; a chronic seducer of women, especially very young women, even in his old age". Also, his father died when he was 4 years old.

SKEPTIC: First of all, who is this mysterious source that called him a "misogynist and a serial adulterer?" Not a fan of his, I'm guessing.

PREACHER: If you had actually read Spiegel's book you would know.

SKEPTIC: May I have more than a couple of days to finish it? But I guess your point is that all atheists must be degenerates, which apparently is also the point of the book, which claims that atheists "reject God" because of immorality in their lives. But come on, if I were to point out examples of prominent Christians who have had similar life experiences (and they wouldn't be hard to find - Ted Haggard comes immediately to mind), would that then prove that all Christians are degenerates, or that immorality caused them to become Christians? Of course not. As for his (Bertrand Russell) seducing young women into old age - Hey, that sounds like me, so I guess I'd have to consider him a role model!

PREACHER: Actually, ones own sinfulness (immorality) is a very good reason to become a Christian. Romans 3:30 says that all mankind have sinned. There is no one who is not degenerate. Unlike atheists, we don't have to maintain a facade of "I'm okay the way I am." We admit that we need a Savior.

SKEPTIC: Ah yes, original sin. We're all born degenerates. Only Jesus can save us from ourselves. Gee, if only God had had the foresight to make Adam and Eve perfect!

PREACHER: After reading his essay, I was struck by one of Russell's statements. He said, "What has human happiness to do with morals? The object of morals is not to make people happy." Is this not the clearest confession of a man's rebellion against his Creator, or what?

SKEPTIC: I believe that a careful re-reading of that quote in its proper context will reveal that he was talking about the church's attitude towards morality, i.e. the church doesn't equate happiness with morality. He wrote:

It [the church] is in its major part an opponent still of progress and improvement in all the ways that diminish suffering in the world, because it has chosen to label as morality a certain narrow set of rules of conduct which have nothing to do with human happiness; and when you say that this or that ought to be done because it would make for human happiness, they think that has nothing to do with the matter at all. "What has human happiness to do with morals? The object of morals is not to make people happy."

PREACHER: That is in accordance with his twisted view of the church. Actually Divinely revealed morality is for our happiness in the long run. Man's rewriting of that morality to his liking will always lead to his own destruction. Russell's view of happiness is limited to just the temporal.

You may be right about the context, but my point still stands. Russell says:

"There are a great many ways in which, at the present moment, the church, by its insistence upon what it chooses to call morality, inflicts upon all sorts of people undeserved and unnecessary suffering."

Christians would counter him by saying that their morality is not by choice, but by Divine decree. Russell sees that morality as causing unnecessary suffering. One such suffering that is very personal for him is that that morality condemns his sexual lifestyle and many other practices that he would like to condone. If there is indeed no Divinely given law then he has a point, but he must first prove that the Divine hasn't communicated moral laws to us and probably doesn't exist. He hasn't done that. Rather, as Speigel would agree, he starts with his opinion and lifestyle as the ultimate authority and rejects anything that contradicts it. In so doing, he elevates anyone's opinion, including people like Adolph Hitler (unless he claims to be the moral authority for all men) to an authoritative status. Besides a sexually promiscuous lifestyle you share something else in common with him. You both don't really know for sure if anything is right or wrong. You just have your temporary opinions that have actually been quite influenced by Biblical morality. I am thankful for that. In another life context, completely void of Christian moral consensus, you could be a cannibal, or a Stalin.

This is getting interesting.

SKEPTIC: I agree, if by "interesting" you mean "tiresome." All this nonsense about Christians possessing the only true "authority" when it comes to morality is exactly the kind of thing that turns people against the Christian religion. When you boil it down to its essence, Christianity tells people, "We're the only true religion. All you other guys are nuts. You've been duped by Satan and you're all going to hell. And furthermore, if you're not a Christian, you can't really be a good person. We Christians are the only possessors of goodness."

PREACHER: Let me congratulate at getting the point at least partially right. Oh yeah, Divine decree is absolutely unthinkable to you. So it always ends up being the opinion of Christians rather than the decree or revelation of God. Now, what makes your opinion anymore compelling than ours? What is your source of authority in moral matters? As someone who really believes that his existence is temporary, what right do you have to oppose that which is eternal?

SKEPTIC: Look, you say I don't have a moral authority and I say you have a made-up moral authority. We're both still entitled to our opinions on the subject. In any event, I don't believe Russell would describe his lifestyle as "suffering," and when he talks about the church inflicting suffering on people, I suspect he's talking about things like their doctrines on birth control and such, not to mention all the wars that have been fought in the name of God.

PREACHER: Listening to guys like Russell, and many other of his types, would make you think that the church has some kind of a monopoly on inflicting suffering on people. LOL

SKEPTIC: And by the way, I WISH my lifestyle could be described as "sexually promiscuous!" I'd be having a lot more fun!

PREACHER: Maybe you should write James Spiegel and he can add you to his list of famous atheists like: Jean Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, and Aldous Huxley. Here is the link to his blog:

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