Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Tragedy that is Christian Morality

Over on Triablogue, blogger and long-time visitor to my blog Justin Hall challenged Steve Hays on his naïve, one-size-fits-all attempts to malign atheism and those who hold no god-beliefs – those dastardly evil people known as “atheists.” In his blog entry, Atheism has no brakes, Hays is apparently attempting to blame atheism for the tragic goings-on that have recently come to light concerning Planned Parenthood. Not surprisingly, he has a difficult time making any connection between the two.

Ironically, Hays laments the evil that goes on in the world while his own worldview teaches that “God controls whatsoever comes to pass” (Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, p. 160) and that “God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists” (Bahnsen, Always Ready, p. 172). Given Hays’ worldview, the people at Planned Parenthood are nothing more than puppets doing the will of the Christian god as they fulfill its “divine plan.” Since, according to Christianity, everything that happens in the world, happens according to “God’s plan,” Planned Parenthood is just one more instance of planned evil.

It’s pretty hard to lay blame on atheism when you worship a god which has intended evil to proliferate the world from before the beginning of time, but then again, Christians are not known for the logical solvency of their worldview.

But Christian crusaders don’t like to pass up any opportunity in which they can vilify non-believers. For believers, atheists are the ultimate spoil sports. The very existence of people who don’t believe in invisible magic beings serves as a constant reminder that some individuals in this world may in fact have mature minds and do not confuse the imaginary with the real. For those who insist on worshiping imaginary beings, atheists are a disappointment; their religious taunts roll off like water on a duck’s feathers.

A brief encounter I had just yesterday illustrated this point quite well. As I was walking to my car in a parking lot, groceries in tow, a fellow approached me with a tract in his hand asking, “Would you like to come to our church service?” I looked him in the eye and smiled politely as I calmly responded, “I’m not a believer.” That is all I said, but even this was too much as it was difficult for him to contain his initial disappointment; his face changed into a rather sour look, like a used car salesman who simply can’t get that ’92 Dodge off his lot. I would have been more than happy to converse with him, but he gave up immediately and walked off, looking for some easy fish.

In his blog entry, Hays likens atheism to
car on a hilltop without a parking brake. The only thing that keeps it from rolling down the hill is the wheel chock of Christian culture. Remove that, and watch what happens. Atheism has no moral brakes. Remove the Christian wheel chock, and unstoppable nihilism ensues.
Mind you, this “wheel chock of Christian culture” consists of a worldview which likens the universe to a cartoon and, as we saw above, teaches that there’s such a thing as “a morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists” (which can only undermine everything that is good), that to be a follower of Jesus one must hate his loved ones and even himself (Luke 14:26), that Jesus wants you to “die and give your life to Him. Die” (Paul Washer, Die to Self, Surrender to Jesus), and requires believers to ignore the distinction between the reality they perceive and the fantasies they imagine.

This “wheel chock of Christian culture” enshrines the unearned – both in terms of guilt and “salvation,” and models the supreme moral authority of the universe as a father who turns his back on his own child as his child is beaten, tortured and executed. As a child myself and as a father myself, such an image is truly horrifying. But that is a demonstration of “God’s love” at its finest hour, and Christians explicitly celebrate it as such. One might say that we would expect evil from people who are evil, but what screwy sense of morality must one have to call evil good when the deity they happen to worship commits it?

And keep in mind that this “wheel chock of Christian culture” has given us the papal hegemony of Rome, the Dark Ages, the Inquisition, Calvin’s Consistory, centuries of child abuse, the rise of countless cults, such as Jim Jones’ “People’s Church,” David Koresh’s Branch Davidians, the Heaven’s Gate self-mutilators, and arguably many, many other terrors thanks to the influence of its primitive anti-rational dogma and its leading witch doctors.

And it’s not hard to see why. The Christian worldview keeps the concept of morality is shrouded in obscurity, confusion and contradiction. In its most popular translation, the sourcebook for this “wheel chock of Christian culture,” the bible, nowhere even makes use of the words ‘moral’ or ‘morality’ (a search from Genesis to Revelation gets you “Sorry, we didn’t find any results for your search” and suggests that we “double-check spelling, especially people and place names”). Nowhere do we find any clear instruction on morality, beginning most crucially with a principled understanding of what morality is or why it’s important. It’s simply not there The bible’s authors devote much of their energy on their concern for circumcision and carnality, but certainly not on the intellectual importance of morality. And to the extent that it does have any moral teachings, there’s confusion on whether it applies or when it applies. E.g., are adulterers to be put to death (cf. Lev. 20:10), or not (cf. John 8:1-11). Moreover, if you do live immorally, you can be forgiven anyway – and just by inclining your beliefs in the approved manner (!), so clearly morality cannot be all that serious a matter. And yet, we are told that this worldview is the great moral regulator. Go figure.

And of course, if you’re simply honest and mention the fact that you don’t believe that the supernatural beings people imagine are real, you’re chastised and belittled with the fury of an internet apologist. As if that were going to somehow make you change your views. “Steve Hays says all these terrible things about atheists. I better start believing now!” O little man.

Christianity ascribes fantastical power to consciousness through its idolization of the imagination while denying its actual power through its assault on reason. (It is precisely in this manner that Christianity denies the axiom of consciousness.) The mere presence or absence of a certain belief is sufficient to have eternal consequences for one’s soul. Just believe, and you’ll be able to walk on water, cast mountains into the sea, and have fellowship with an imaginary Jesus. And with today’s apologists, if you just believe in Jesus, then you have what passes among them as a philosophical account for universals, a justification for inductive inference, a ground for morals, etc. Of course, all this ignores, among other things, the fact that, before one can believe in Jesus, he must imagine Jesus. This simply means that whatever “account” or “justification” Christians claim to have for philosophical matters, is ultimately based in the imagination. But as Hays himself aptly puts it, “An imagined Jesus is just an imaginary Jesus” (Olson’s Imaginary Jesus).

If there is a fundamental distinction between what is real and what we merely imagine, then this distinction has enormously wide implications for our understanding of reality, our approach to acquiring and validating knowledge, our evaluation of what the good is, etc. And yet, where does the bible present any consistent instruction on this matter? How can one worship the Christian god, or any god, without first imagining it and then pretending that what is imagined is real? How can one pray to the Christian god without imagining that it exists and is listening to one’s prayers? The Christian god is supposed to be a mind-independent entity, like the objects we perceive, but completely beyond the reach of our senses, and with none of the attributes we find in things we discover in the world when we look outward. We have no alternative but to look inward and imagine any gods, including the Christian god. Sadly for Christians, my choice to be honest requires me to acknowledge the facts that there is indeed a fundamental distinction between what is real and what is merely imaginary, and that what I imagine is merely imaginary, not real. And it is precisely for this “sin” that I am berated by Christians. It is precisely for this “sin” that Dustin Segers wants to get into people’s faces and bully them with a never-ending series of “how do you know?” questions, fired off in rapid succession, questions which Christianity can ultimately “answer” only with the formula: “Just believe.”

But we atheists, being a minority as we are, are easy to scapegoat for all of society’s woes, even though we are a mere minority. I had no idea that, as an atheist, I had so much power and influence. But apparently we atheists are responsible not only for Planned Parenthood, but also for Nazi Germany, the Korean War, the failed policies of the Johnson Administration, Jimmy Carter’s brain cancer, car accidents, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other woes. Somehow, in the believer’s mind, I am to bear blame for such things, and yet the god he enshrines in his imagination, which he says created the world to begin with and governs everything according to its “plan,” is not only entirely blameless, but also the ultimate source and standard of morality. Pardon me if I’m not persuaded by all this.

Nevertheless, somehow – anyhow – no how, atheism as such is to be blamed for what’s been happening in Planned Parenthood. We certainly should not pause and consider if a worldview which models child sacrifice may have any hand in this.

In his comment responding to Hays’ blog entry, Justin asked:
Why do you insist on lumping all atheists together as if we were some ideological monolith. All atheism tells you is what I don't believe in, not what I do.
Hays actually expressed agreement with Justin’s point, writing:
Yes, technically, atheism is just a statement of what an atheist doesn't believe rather than what he does believe.
This is an important concession, and it’s delightful to see. Yet, Hays does not answer Justin’s question as to why he lumps all atheists together. Hays did write:
However, by denying God's existence, he denies the foundation of morality.
We know that Christians believe this to be the case, but simply asserting it does not make it so. Indeed, existence holds metaphysical primacy over conscious activity. Nor does wishing make it so, and for the same reason. But can a Christian present a case for the view that the god he imagines is “the foundation of morality”? Clearly it can be argued that atheism, by implication, would be logically incompatible with any conception of morality which posits a god as its foundation. But this incompatibility would obtain only in the case of moral views which are underwritten by some form of theism. It would not, however, follow from this that atheism is incompatible with a non-theistic version of morality. And this is what I understand Justin to have been getting at when he affirmed his moral pronouncements on the basis of a “morality grounded in the facts of existence.”

This of course goes right over the Christian’s head, for not only does his worldview conceive of facts as products of conscious activity that conform to supernatural will (and thus cannot in any way be considered absolute), but in the Christian’s mind morality has nothing to do with facts which we find in the world to begin with, but are merely expressions of divine wishing. John Robbins admitted as much when he wrote (An Introduction to Gordon H. Clark):
The distinction between right and wrong depends entirely upon the commands of God. There is no natural law that makes some actions right and others wrong… Were there no law of God, there would be no right or wrong.
Since, according to Christianity, there’s nothing outside of the Christian god which could constrain its will, it could will to command anything to be “moral,” and given that it commands it, it would – on the Christian’s view – consequently be “moral” by whatever definition of morality the believer might happen to have in mind. Consider the command that Abraham was given to prepare his own son as a sacrifice. Notice the great confusion involved in this: first Abraham is commanded to kill his son as a sacrifice (note that, according to what we read in the text of Gen. 22, Abraham in no wise flinches here – he dutifully and unquestioningly proceeds to carry out what he’s been commanded to do), but then he’s commanded not to kill his son and to kill a ram instead. So given the primacy of divine wishing (i.e., “commands”), first it’s moral to kill, then it’s not moral to kill. Indeed, does Hays think that, if a believer truly believed that he had been ordered by his god to kill, that he should disobey his god?

So, not only as “an atheist,” but as an adult human being, I’m all too happy to deny such a morality, for its foundations are as corrupt as they are subjective and irrational. The wisdom of my denial of the Christian view of morality is only confirmed by the fact that there is a rational alternative to Christianity’s morality, namely the moral code of life, i.e., the Objectivist ethics.

The stark contrasts between Christian morality and the Objectivist ethics cannot be over-emphasized. I have already given sufficient information about the Objectivist ethics in the above link; also, readers are encouraged to examine “The Objectivist Ethics” in Ayn Rand’s book The Virtue of Selfishness. I will say a few things about Christianity’s version of morality, the version of morality that is held up by Christian believers as some sort of standard which all men should put into practice.

Christian morality entails faith in supernatural spirits, unquestioning obedience to commands (whatever they may be), self-sacrifice, perpetual guilt and fear, hope in the irrational, belief in the imaginary, the willingness to lie to oneself, the psychological fallout of mental disintegration. Its standard is death, and Christians never tire of speaking about death as though it had positive importance. It teaches that your moral starting point is that of a convicted felon, even from birth, and that you must put your trust in something that is wholly indistinguishable from something that is purely imaginary in order for this starting point to somehow be overcome. On Christianity’s view, one cannot earn salvation; salvation is only possible because someone died for it. In other words, the believer seeks to benefit directly from someone else’s suffering and loss. Its assertion that we continue living in some supernatural realm (again, indistinguishable from something merely imaginary) after we die here in “this world,” only serves to cheapen life, as though to say: don’t worry about this life, there’s more later after you die, and you’ll even have it “more abundantly.” It requires the adherent to hate his own family and even himself, which given the poor character of many Christians, that probably wouldn’t be hard to do (I can only suppose that if I were Sye Ten Bruggencate, I’d hate myself too).

Christian morality holds to the fantasy that love is subject to commands – that simply ordering a person to love someone else will result in genuine love. Of course, this is a delusion, but this does not stop Christians from repeating such nonsense. And yet, they are to love indiscriminately, which only cheapens love as such. They are commanded, for example, to love their neighbor as they love themselves. But suppose one’s neighbor is a wife-beating child abuser seething with cruelty towards everyone in his vicinity? Ignore it: you’re supposed to “love” that neighbor as you love yourself in spite of his threat to values.

Far from being consistently and absolutely pro-good, Christianity teaches that there can be such a thing as “a morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists.” Apologists do not tell us what this “morally sufficient reason” permitting evil might be or how they came to assess any willful permission of evil as “morally sufficient.” No specifics or analysis are provided. This is simply an article of faith to be accepted unquestionably in spite of its inherent philosophical hollowness. But this permissive view of evil (which can only proceed at the cost of the good) coincides with the command that the believer “resist not evil” found in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:39). So not only does the Christian god have a cozy relationship with evil, the believer is also likewise expected to adopt a demeanor of moral indifference as well.

All of this rests on a wholly mystical epistemology (if it could be called such) in which believers affirm that they “know” things when in fact there was no rational process of discovery and validation involved. Augustine summed it up quite tellingly with the words “do not seek to understand in order to believe, but believe that you may understand" (Lectures on the Gospel of John, 29.6). This is ominously similar to Nancy Pelosi’s infamous endorsement of the Obamacare legislation: “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” Both remarks model making a commitment to something before understanding what is being committed to, which means: a commitment is expected without understanding, while understanding is promised as a reward for making the commitment. Unfortunately, that promise is pretty much forgotten shortly after making the commitment, for in neither case – whether it’s Christianity or Obamacare – understanding is never achieved. But that’s why Proverbs 3:5 tells the believer not to “lean on” his understanding anyway.

In sum, the divide between the Objectivist ethics and Christian morality boils down to the alternative between fact-based values vs. faith-based duties, rational self-interest vs. servile self-sacrifice, the reason-guided mind of rational philosophy vs. the fear-guilt complex of religion.

When Justin rightly told Hays that he should know better than to smear all atheists with the same brush, pointing out that Objectivism has its own “ethical framework,” Hays replied:
Yes, I'm aware of Objectivism. It's a hack philosophy.
Of course, this is not an argument. Far from it, it tells us much more about Steve Hays than it does about anything in Objectivism. What exactly constitutes a “hack philosophy” if not one that originated in the primitive mystical cults of ancient Palestine and dressed up today as though it were something other than the irrational indulgence in subjectivism that it actually is?

Objectivism affirms basic undeniable facts as its starting point and explicitly recognizes the primacy of existence – i.e., the recognition that the objects of consciousness exist and are what they are independent of conscious activity (cf. wishing doesn’t make it so). Objectivism holds that reason is man’s only means of knowledge and founds morality on the basis of reason (i.e., morality is the application of reason to man’s task of living and enjoying his life). Objectivism has a unique theory of concepts (compared to none in Christianity – as Jason Petersen gleefully affirmed, “concepts have no place in Christian epistemology” – see here).

Objectivism affirms man’s right to exist for his own sake, which includes property rights, the right to life, to liberty and to the pursuit of happiness. Compared to Christianity, which provides no doctrine of individual rights – J.P. Holding even states
The idea of individual rights is a byproduct of modern individualism, a way of thinking that has only emerged in the last hundred or so years (with the Industrian Revolution) and only in Western nations. The ancients, and most of the world today, does not speak of "individual rights" but of group obligations. Thus there is no "right" to do anything. This is not in the Bible itself since it is a given in their cultural background [sic]” (this comes from Holding’s response to Anton Thorn’s Questions for Christians; unfortunately, Holding has since removed his response from the internet.)
Appeals to the 10 commandments and other lists of prohibitions in the bible as though they entailed or were equivalent to a defense of individual rights, all fail because even they do not present themselves in the context of observing and protecting rights. On the contrary, they treat man as a slave who must obey unquestioningly what he is commanded, regardless of what it might be.

So a philosophy that champions reality, reason, values, and individual rights, is – according to Steve Hays – “a hack philosophy”? Really? Is he knowingly rejecting reality, reason, values and individual rights, or is he simply ignorant of what Objectivism actually teaches? Or, is he so confessionally invested in his mysticism that familiarity with the relevant facts simply does not matter, that – like Mike Licona who says “I want it to be true” – he is committed to embracing Christianity at all costs?

In fact, one would expect an adherent of a worldview which ultimately holds that wishing not only makes it so, but that wishing made the universe in the first place, to heap his scorn against a worldview which consistently affirms the primacy of existence. Again, atheists are spoil sports, and faith cannot proceed unfettered in a culture of reason. So it is reason which must be assaulted and stamped out. Indeed, Hays even thinks that reason can deceive people (see his blog entry Signs and seasons).

As for abortion, there are two matters under concern: 1) whether or not abortion is moral, and 2) whether or not one should have a right to get an abortion. I recall one fellow who argued that the right to get an abortion does not – given today’s technology – entail the right to kill the aborted fetus. I’m guessing that Christians would still object to abortion under such circumstances, and there may be good reasons to sustain an objection to abortion – but they will not come from Christianity.

That is to say that Christians are for the most part vocal opponents of abortion (that is, when they aren’t aborting their own unwanted pregnancies… shhhhh!). But how can a Christian consistently object to abortion? After all, their god controls everything according to its divine plan, so if abortions are happening, they must be – according to Christianity – part of the Christian god’s plan.

Also, William Lane Craig – probably the highest-profile defender of Christianity living today – tells us that the souls of those who perish in infancy or childhood go straight to heaven. In defending the genocides commanded by the Christian god in the Old Testament in which children and infants were most likely slaughtered, Craig states:
if you believe as I do in the salvation of infants or children who die, what that meant was that these… the death of these children meant their salvation. They were the recipients of an infinite good as a result of their earthly phase of life being terminated. The problem is that people look at this from a naturalistic perspective and think life ends at the grave. But in fact this was the salvation of these children, and it would be far better for them than continuing to be raised in this reprobate Canaanite culture. So I don’t think God wronged anybody in commanding this to be done. He didn’t wrong the adults because they were deserving of capital punishment. He didn’t wrong the children – if there were any that were killed, which we don’t know – because God has the right to take their lives, and in effect they were recipients of a great good. So I don’t think anybody that was morally wronged in this affair.
Again, notice how merely believing something supposedly has this magical power to make troublesome situations simply disappear. This is the “conscience” of the believer put on display before the world.

Given this belief, how could one feasibly object to aborting pregnancies? Once dead, the souls of fetuses would go straight to heaven. Indeed, if we can imagine that the souls of infants and toddlers who die in their initial years go straight to heaven, what’s to keep us from imagining that the souls of aborted fetuses also go straight to heaven? Abortion, then, given Christianity’s premises, could at worst be a first-class ticket to the Pearly Gates and beyond, into the wonder-kingdom of the Christian god’s everlasting paradise.

I’m sure glad these aren’t my problems!

by Dawson Bethrick


Ydemoc said...


I just started reading your latest., so my comment may be a little premature (as you may have already made a similar point later on), but...

You wrote: "Since, according to Christianity, everything that happens in the world, happens according to 'God’s plan,'Planned Parenthood is just one more instance of planned evil."

Not to mention the fact that, according to many within Christendom -- perhaps Hays among them -- all those aborted fetuses get a free ticket into so-called Heaven. So what's the problem, Hays?


Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Ydemoc,

As always, great to hear from you!

Yes, I do bring this up, only I think I called it a first-class ticket to heaven. But at any rate, it is free in a sense... though one has to lose his life to get it, so maybe it's not so free after all? But to make it extra spicy, I quote William Lane Craig, a certified Christian heavyweight.

But suppose Hays or any other Christian does not hold the view that souls taken in infancy or toddlerhood are immediately wafted up to heaven automatically. Suppose they'll still be judged, and some found guilty for whatever reason (e.g., some were going to lead sinful lives without ever getting saved). To quote Hillary Clinton, "What difference does it make?" The whole thing's been rigged for all eternity anyway, so they never had a chance to begin with. We're all cartoon characters doing whatever the master cartoonist wills. If we enjoy long lives full of wealth and prosperity, that's because the master cartoonist wanted to populate his cartoons with such; if we suffer lives of poverty and agony, that was the master cartoonist's will. It's all cartoon determinism through and through on the Christian position. To argue anything otherwise is to deny the sovereignty of the Christian god, and I hear there's an "extra toasty" option in hell for such sacrilege.


Unknown said...

Mr. Bethrick,

After reading Hays' post, I have to admit that I am completely puzzled as to what he thinks we will “roll” into if we remove the Christian “wheel chock.” It cannot be that Hays has a principled stance regarding fetuses as persons (cf., Leviticus 27:6; Numbers 3:15-16) or terminating pregnancies in general (cf., Number 5:21, 27-28; Hosea 9:14,16; Hosea 13:16).

Is he worried about genocide (cf., Deuteronomy 20:16-17)? Cannibalism (cf., Jeremiah 19:9)? Human sacrifice (cf., Judges 11:30 – 39)? Slavery (cf., Exodus 21:20)? Rape (cf., Deuteronomy 22:28-29)? Public execution of children (cf., Deuteronomy 21: 18-21)? Or perhaps he is worried about more serious issues, such as eating shellfish (e.g, Leviticus 11:12) or wearing cotton blend T-shirts (e.g., Leviticus 19:19)?

In essence, Christianity only has one 'moral' issue: obedience. The act itself does not matter, just as long as one does and thinks what one is told. Christian 'morality' is an Orwellian nightmare. How otherwise intelligent people can subscribe to such a shallow and capricious moral system is beyond me. Not to mention its inherent and inescapable philosophical flaws.

Thank you for your post.

Brandon D Dickens

Justin Hall said...


"In essence, Christianity only has one 'moral' issue: obedience."

Bingo! I even said to him that morality was about the understood and the chosen not the commanded and the obeyed. He chose to not address this point. Hay's conception of morality is so far off base from where I am coming that we just end of talking past each other. I at least understand and accept that what I conceive of as morality does not register as such to him. The other main difference is that this is not only understood but it does not trouble me in the least. I do not require Mr Hay's buy in.


good post, I enjoyed it. I did not continue my dialog with Mr Hay's and company so I guess they will get the last word. Saturday I realized watching paint dry held more entertainment value then continuing with those guys. I grabbed my camera and took some pictures of the amazing sunsets we had this weekend courtesy of the forest fires raging on our door step. Seriously did you go outside this weekend. The air smelt of smoke and visibility was cut to a mile or two.

Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Brandon,

You wrote: “After reading Hays' post, I have to admit that I am completely puzzled as to what he thinks we will ‘roll’ into if we remove the Christian ‘wheel chock’.”

This is a good question, and yet Hays does not explain himself. He probably has in mind (among other things) the OT imagery of the Israelite exiles as they partied while Moses was up on Mt. Sinai conferring with the burning bush (it must have been some really potent cannabis). This notion that Christianity is some kind of cultural “wheel chock” that keeps men in moral check that is the kernel that gives root to religious statism, and we see this playing out in Islamic countries today – in the 21st century, centuries after the Renaissance and the Age of Reason in the west. We find this in religiously influenced secularism, too.

It’s easy for Christians to imagine what might happen if their “wheel chock” is removed from a culture. We’d all “descend” into carnality and fornication, murder, rape and mayhem, child sacrifice, even jaywalking, etc. Now that gays can get married and Bruce Jenner can grow boobs, the shit it is hitting the fan nationwide. With such a slippery slope, next we’ll all be having sex with ducks.

A parallel is the welfare state: if government-subsidized “safety nets” are removed from society, we’ll all go down the black hole of terminal fiscal squalor. And yet, with some 126 federal agencies (so I’ve heard) already in place to “protect” us, why is the poverty rate remaining stable if not increasing, rather than dwindling to a pittance? It’s obvious: what government agency wants its raison d'être to go out of existence? What Christian would say that a pill which immunizes unborn babies from inheriting original sin might be possible, all the while mouthing “with God all things are possible” (Mk 10:27 and parallels)?

The presumption of such paradigms is that man cannot take care of himself, he cannot govern himself morally or successfully, and that he dare not be allowed to! Hence the need for an over-arching, intrusive state to regulate everyone – that ultimate of “wheel chocks” which Hays says only Christianity can put in place.

You wrote: “It cannot be that Hays has a principled stance regarding fetuses as persons (cf., Leviticus 27:6; Numbers 3:15-16) or terminating pregnancies in general (cf., Number 5:21, 27-28; Hosea 9:14,16; Hosea 13:16).”

Principles are not something a Christian can adhere to consistently. He goes only by approved dogma, and his worldview demands compromise with evil. This compromise is a consequence of “grounding” morality on a god which has “a morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists.” The believer’s “morality” *must* make concession to evil. The example of Jesus is instructive: Jesus was supposed to be wholly good, wholly blameless, morally perfect. And yet this moral ideal is sacrificed to the non-ideal, to the vicious, to evil-doers. That’s precisely what the central Christian “message” models. The good is to be discarded on behalf and for the sake of that which is opposed to the good. On such a model, the good cannot win. Only evil can prevail.


Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “In essence, Christianity only has one 'moral' issue: obedience.”

Obedience – indeed, unquestioning obedience – is surely a central issue. But it is not a primary. It has its psychological roots in the acceptance of unearned guilt. Without this, there would be no impetus to “get right with God” and repent and obey. The innocent do not need “redemption.” But no one is innocent, according to Christianity – not even a fetus in a womb. We are each to *feel* guilty, and this feeling of guilt is there to govern our choices and actions, which makes it even more fundamental to obedience. Obedience is the means, but guilt is the driving force behind it all.

You wrote: “Christian 'morality' is an Orwellian nightmare.”

It is indeed! I’m reminded of Van Til’s dictum that “All teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory” (Common Grace and the Gospel, p. 142). How does one intellectually navigate a morality that is based on teachings that are “apparently contradictory” through and through? How can one come to the conclusion that a moral system built on teachings that are “apparently contradictory” is logical, objective and rational?

You wrote: “How otherwise intelligent people can subscribe to such a shallow and capricious moral system is beyond me.”

Yes, it puzzles me as well. I don’t think it is so much of a question of intelligence as it is of honesty. Notice how Christian apologists will rail on a person if he openly admits the fact that he honestly doesn’t believe Christianity’s claims. This is where we find all the variations of “you’re so stupid” apologetic schemes which are intended to intimidate people, either into believing, or at least into shutting up. But even this doesn’t work logically: if I’m so stupid that I can’t understand something, how could I have contextual warrant to support affirming it as “truth”? I’d be too stupid to know it’s true in such a case, so any affirmation that it is true would be made in ignorance. But they’ll happily accept that! So as Orwell put it, “ignorance is strength.”

Christianity has outward tests for confession, but no viable tests for honesty. If one “confesses Jesus” with his mouth, of course he’ll be lead down a never-ending path of “wait, there’s more” as he’s overwhelmed with endless theological nuances that keep him from figuring out that what first attracted him to Christianity was only a massive bait-and-switch from the very beginning. All along, the fear and guilt – the only emotions that believers are allowed to experience fully – work to seal off all exits and lock him in the dark labyrinth that is Christian god-belief. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like in there. And I found the key that gets you out. It’s called honesty. I finally summoned up the courage to be honest and acknowledge to myself, “I really don’t believe any of this hogwash.” And pretty much, just like that, it all disintegrated, and I woke up. In that sense, I’m a born-again human being, and I’ve been relishing my life ever since, no matter who disapproves.

If that worked for me, I don’t see any reason why it can’t work for anyone else. After all, if one is honest, why would he fear a righteous judge? Blank out.


Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Justin,

You wrote: “I did not continue my dialog with Mr Hay's and company so I guess they will get the last word.”

I wouldn’t let that bother me. Having the last word is not as satisfying as one might imagine. Then again, who ever has the last word on things? Eventually I will die, and thinkers who survive me will be free to come along and tear my writings to pieces, if they read them and choose to react.

But that aside, I’m somewhat surprised that there wasn’t more of a dogpile in the comments of Hays’ post. You posted quite a bit, but there’s been relatively little reaction to you, and of that it’s been rather effete. Frankly I expected more from Hays and his doggies. How disappointing! Then again, you were quite frank about your views in your comments. Did your honesty scare them off?

You wrote: “I grabbed my camera and took some pictures of the amazing sunsets we had this weekend courtesy of the forest fires raging on our door step. Seriously did you go outside this weekend. The air smelt of smoke and visibility was cut to a mile or two.”

I was out Saturday, but I missed the sunsets. I smelled a hint of smoke in the morning and almost asked my wife if she had smelled it as well, but it seemed to go away almost as quickly as I first smelled it. Then later, as I was out doing my errands, it was choking thick. I think it upset my stomach for the evening. Luckily it’s cooled down and the smoky smell is gone.


Ydemoc said...


You wrote: "What Christian would say that a pill which immunizes unborn babies from inheriting original sin might be possible, all the while mouthing 'with God all things are possible” (Mk 10:27 and parallels)?'"

Great question! I think that this inquiry (with a little rejiggering) could be included as one of your questions in your entry "Being Prepared for.Encounters with Evangelists."


Unknown said...


Thanks for your response.

I have to commend you on your willingness to engage people like Hays in discussions of morality. In most respects, I am a very cool-headed person, but talking moral issues with fundamentalist Christians tends to cause a visceral reaction in me – the hypocrisy, doublespeak, and fear mongering among such people knows no bounds.

So, I can completely understand why you chose to disengage. The stock assertions of “you cannot account for morality,” without offering any justification or reasoning for those assertions, came pretty quick. This was followed, of course, by assertions that “only Christianity can provide answers” – again without justification or reasoning. I have little patience for such used car salesmen of philosophy.

Brandon D Dickens

Unknown said...

Mr. Bethrick,

I think you are completely correct in your assessment that unearned guilt is the primary motivator of Christian morality.

In the words of the late and great orator Christopher Hitchens (“Is Religion a Force for Good?”, 2010):

“Once you assume a Creator and a plan, it makes us objects in a cruel experiment whereby we are created sick and then commanded to be well... And over us to supervise this is installed a celestial dictatorship, a kind of divine North Korea: ...greedy for uncritical praise from dawn till dusk, and swift to punish the original sins with which it so tenderly gifted us in the very first place.

However, let no one say there’s no cure. Salvation is offered; redemption, indeed, is promised - at the low price of the surrender of your critical faculties.”

Only on such premises could a person willingly give up his or her own mind and trade any hope of discovering truth in order to live a fantasy. For me, the allure of everlasting life is not worth sacrificing my integrity. I will accept reality on its own terms, and I will gladly accept the consequences of my actions – empty threats of hell-fire be damned.

Interestingly, I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian home. However, my deconversion was not as dramatic as I think most others tends to be. Like my belief in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, I simply grew out of it when I began to investigate it with reason and, as you say, honesty. The myth just does not live up to scrutiny.

Thank you for your response.

Brandon D Dickens

Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Brandon,

By the way, you can call me Dawson. I’ve never been big on titles or formalities.

You wrote: “Only on such premises could a person willingly give up his or her own mind and trade any hope of discovering truth in order to live a fantasy. For me, the allure of everlasting life is not worth sacrificing my integrity. I will accept reality on its own terms, and I will gladly accept the consequences of my actions – empty threats of hell-fire be damned.”

These are very good points. Think of the implications of someone who is willing to sacrifice his integrity. Such is a person who has earned very little to begin with, I can only suppose. But with Christianity, it is as subtle as a spider trapping a fly, or a fisherman patiently waiting with a net.

Those who are not in the habit of developing, earning and preserving their own integrity and character, are prone to one degree or another to losing it.

Also, how important is happiness to an individual? I think this is crucial. Rand defined happiness as non-contradictory joy. Once a person grasps the profundity of this, I don’t see how he could take his own character for granted. It’s so central to true happiness in life. And yet, everything which Christianity stands for represents an all-out assault on the preconditions of human happiness. Indeed, if one believes that he has a happy eternity awaiting him after he dies, what does this do to his estimation of the value of the life that he actually has? Talk about the stock market crashing!

When Christians raise the issue of “the meaning of life,” do they ever discuss the issue of happiness and personal fulfillment? Not that I’ve seen. These are explicitly selfish concerns. On the contrary, they typically talk about living for something outside yourself, something bigger than yourself, about serving something higher than man, about playing out some role in some larger “plan.” (Japanese kamikaze pilots were told the same thing.) Your personal happiness may or may not come (i.e., it won’t, and they wouldn’t care about your happiness anyway – why should they?), but the “joy” you’re promised is really nothing more than a determination to suck it up and go along with the biblical program, wherever it leads, regardless of its destructive effects on your values, its assault on your integrity, its negation of your joy. If Jesus gave up his life for the world, how much more can a mere mortal be expected to give up?

I’m happy to report, however, that they cannot take your integrity unless you first sacrifice it. So guard it well!

You wrote: “Interestingly, I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian home. However, my deconversion was not as dramatic as I think most others tends to be. Like my belief in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, I simply grew out of it when I began to investigate it with reason and, as you say, honesty. The myth just does not live up to scrutiny.”

Waking up from a bad dream does not need to be dramatic to be real. Or instructive. Sadly, some turn from Christianity for purely emotional reasons, and their swelter of negativity and sour feelings may very well prevent them from coming to a deeper understanding of what happened to them psychologically and philosophically. Many vocal atheists and opponents of religion and Christianity in particular do not seem to realize that they promote merely a secularized variant of the religion they claim to reject, whether it’s in epistemology (“we can’t be certain”) or morality (“sure, selfishness is bad”), or condoning the use of force (“our schools need more funding”). Rejecting religion does not automatically equate to embracing reason and rationality.


Bahnsen Burner said...

Steve Hays writes on one occasion:

<< atheism entails moral and existential nihilism. >>

Then Steve Hays writes on another occasion:

<< Yes, technically, atheism is just a statement of what an atheist doesn't believe rather than what he does believe. >>

Game, set, match. You’re out.

I’ve already challenged the view that “atheism entails moral and existential nihilism” here: Does Atheism Truly Lead to Nihilism?


brownmamba said...

I had a couple of interactions with Hays. What's so ironic is that for all his writings on how atheism entails nihilism, he fails to understand how ghastly his own view is. He has explicitly written that all human action happens according to God's mental manipulations, just like the actions of movie characters happen according to the intentions of the director. But not only are we all pawns, but some of us are judged and condemned to eternal torture. You would think that such a deterministic view would foster more sympathy for the damned, but you would be wrong. How he doesn't view God as a monster is beyond me.

At the core of his view is a hatred for the idea of human freedom. Without a transcendent entity manipulating humanity to its will, mankind is doomed to chaos and nihilistic despair. This would make sense if you could completely forget about the effects of human empathy and the desire to cooperate in a functioning society. But Hays, in typical Calvinistic fashion, hates anything that would diminish the importance of God, so facts about the human disposition are downplayed.

As for the specific post "Atheism has no brakes", I found it to mostly be a straw man. People don't support abortion because they have adopted a view to the tune of "there is no afterlife, therefore I'm only out for myself". The support largely comes from the denial of the personhood of the fetus. This denial is based on the fetus' lack of certain mental faculties. Unsurprisingly, Hays doesn't discuss this basis of the pro-choice view.

praestans said...

Hello Dawson

Could I offer my hap'nny's wurth:

'hating one's perants'

The wurd translatid as "hate" has the sense'v "to love less than" or "to have lesser priority than". It doesn't really mean what our wurd "hate" means.

Jesus Matt 15:4 iterates the command to honour perants. Prhaps it has legal and/or cultural connotations.

Seems a problum of language, as I alludid to in another comment regarding the wurd 'fanny'. Or it's a mite like saying 'one must be careless'.
This used to mean 'one must be wurry-free'.

Might I possibly sujest looking at exegeses? These may shed light on inturpritasns: aramaisms, hebraisms that hav becum calques in English?



Justin Hall said...

@Dawson and the rest of the usual gang, this is for your amusement.

Unknown said...

@ justin; "Can't you call on Wednesday during normal business hours?!" Ha!

Justin Hall said...


Glad you liked it:)