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Posted by on Apr 5, 2014 in Christianity, Morality, Secularism, Society | 18 comments

Atheists: stealing morals from the Christians again

 

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It’s often said that our society is based on Christian values.  But I completely beg to differ.  For at least three reasons:

1)  Our society is not based on Christian values.  It is based on a desire to run things in the best way we can think of.  And many of our decisions fly directly in the face of Christian values.  For example, if legalising gay marriage seems like the right thing to do, then it doesn’t matter that it goes against the Bible (and “Christian values”).  We’ll do it (eventually).

2)  There’s no such thing as “Christian values”.  Many Christians think gay marriage is terrible and shouldn’t be allowed.  But many other Christians think it’s fine.  If you listed the things all Christians agree on, you wouldn’t have a very long list.

3)  Correlation does not equal causation.  There are definitely some values in the Christian worldview that are part of what our society is based on.  Theft and murder are prohibited in the Bible and also in our society, for example.  (Stealing people is kinda OK, though, right?)  But this is just because these aspects of Christianity happen to be based on good ways to run a society.  It’s not like everyone thought societies where people could take and kill whatever and whoever they wanted were great until the 10 commandments came along.

I definitely get it that many of my values are shared by many Christians, and I’m really glad about that.  I was a Christian myself for a long time, and I didn’t suddenly reverse my opinion on every moral question when I left the Christian faith behind.

But Christians need to wake up to the fact that our society isn’t based on their values, and that while it’s great that they agree a ban on murder is sensible, it doesn’t mean they came up with the idea.

 

  • Daniel Lin

    I would go even as far as saying, the moral compass that murder and theft are bad, are not exclusively Christian ideas. The morals in the western world can also be found in non-Christian cultures, for example, the Chinese culture had, for thousands of years, seen murder, theft, rape etc.. as morally bad.

    Confucius taught a set of morals that shared many similarities to the morals found in Christianity. I have heard some evangelical Christians said Confucius’ teachings comes from the devil, that’s because they thought Confucius was teaching a religion. That’s the most stupid and arrogant assessment I’ve ever heard, because they don’t even understand what Confucius was actually teaching, it has nothing to do with a theistic religion. I would recommend reading the Analects, Confucius is definitely one of the greatest thinkers in human history.

  • Daniel Lin

    It is equally as interesting that ancient China has records for being one of the world’s earliest civilization to abolish slavery, it didn’t last permanently of course, but it was done for humanitarian reasons.

  • http://de-avanzada.blogspot.com/ Ðavid A. Osorio S

    How much more psycopath can you get if you need a god to tell you stealing and killing are wrong?

    Isn’t that murderous god a hypocrite?

    • http://www.skepticink.com/reasonablyfaithless Reasonably Faithless

      “Isn’t that murderous god a hypocrite?”

      A topic for a future post!

      • http://de-avanzada.blogspot.com/ Ðavid A. Osorio S

        I’ll be waiting :)

  • johzek

    The Christian values of an unquestioning obedience of authority and the elevation of faith over reason are hardly advantageous to the functioning of a modern democracy. These values are more appropriate to totalitarian regimes or the “divine right of kings” states that ruled in Europe for much of the last two millennia. The individual must sacrifice first his intellect and then if necessary his life to the whims of the divinely appointed ruler.
    Our Declaration of Independence is an explicit rejection of this religious idea of governance in favor of the recognition that “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” and not an imagined deity. Ultimately the Christian idea of everlasting punishment, of unearned and substitutionary guilt, of intolerance of other beliefs, of divine command ethics, of the divine right of kings, have little to do with the ideal of our system of government and the rights of its citizens.

  • brad lencioni

    It seems to me that Christianities major contribution to humanity is the Bible. The Bible is a complex literary narrative with many authors over a long and complex history; thus, it permits of multiple interpretations (It is more appropriate to classify it as artistic literature, to me, than a scientific/historical/philosophical text with formally, well-defined terms and evidentially documented facts). And any interpretation of it that is at all ethical, informative and relevant to modern society requires primarily the methodology of philosophy, a discipline which owes its origins to the ancient Greeks (who developed democracy, moral philosophy, logic, etc. centuries before Christianity).

    So I think it is bizarre how modern Christians have confused the Bible with theology, and its adaptation of ancient philosophy. The former is what Christianity has contributed, and it is essentially useless to modern society. Theology, however, is still relevant; but that is because it treads in philosophy–which is not a product of Christianty (and so neither is ethics, democracy, science, etc.).

    In other words, it is pretty obvious (to my mind) that everything that though the Bible and the history of the Christian religion is important in western society; everything that is of fundamental value to society today and its progression is not fundamentally Christian.

  • http://www.nsewell.com/ Nick Sewell

    Phil Zuckerman overwhelmingly won the debate where he argued that civil society should be based on secular humanism, with every religion given the freedom to discuss their own values, and what it means to pursue the good life, without censoring other religions.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_QDJ7DOD_Y

    Scholars have documented over 40,000 Christian denominations, more than the number of verses in a protestant bible.

    Finklestein and Silberman pointed out how the documentary hypothesis destroys the accuracy of the Torah, but noted that the Deuteronomist is one of the earliest sources writing about protection of the individual.

  • http://www.nsewell.com/ Nick Sewell

    Another thing to note, not sure if you’ve read Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind, where he notes that morality “binds and blinds”, with people in a moral/tribal system like religion and politics binded to the group, and binded to the morality, while blinded to the negative effects. Christians want everyone else in society to be bound to roughly the same moral systems that they are, in the belief that it creates a level playing field

    http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/counterpoint/righteous-mind/4084716#transcript

    > Morality binds and blinds. That is, it’s this great human innovation that we can work together in teams when we are not kin, we’re not relatives. No other animal can do that, other than bees and ants, but they are relatives, they’re sisters.

    > But we humans are able to circle around sacred objects or even a rock or a tree or a river or something, and then we can trust each other. We basically bind ourselves into a team or a religious group. But in doing so we give up the ability to think for ourselves. And this is what partisanship is. You buy into a team, you become part of something larger than yourself, you fight for what feels like a noble purpose, but you lose the ability to think clearly. And in part because if you do think clearly you start saying, well, I believe in a woman’s right to choose on abortion but actually abortion in the fourth or fifth month is really disturbing and I think that might perhaps be banned. Well, if you say that in polite liberal company in the United States, you could quite well be ostracised and not invited back because this is an issue which is one of the primary divides in the culture war, and you are a traitor if you do nuance. Not in all circles, there are some circles in which a little will be tolerated, but basically it’s tribal warfare, and you’re not supposed to be a traitor.

  • Gandolf

    I doubt that Christian’s can lay claim to origin of the golden rule

  • ThePrussian

    I’m sorry, I simply cannot agree. We think of ethical individualism as something that is universal, but in fact, the first group to really spread it around the world were the Christians. Morality prior to that was very much linked with tribe, clan etc. The idea of individual conscience is traceable to Christianity. Similarly, the reason that the great scientific revolution took off in

    That isn’t to say that there isn’t a lot of evil nonsense in Christian teaching – of course there is. But all the things we hold dear in modern civilization are are a result of that peculiar fusion of Christian individualism with Greek Reason and Roman Law. The very case for gay marriage is one based on equal rights and equality before the law – where do you think those ideas came from?

    This doesn’t mean that we need a society of Christian belivers to maintain these – once the birth is complete, the midwife is no longer needed, once the chick has hatched and flown, neither egg nor nest are needed. But I think we have to be square with where some things originated.

    • guerillasurgeon

      Individualism is not the be all and end all of ethics.

      • ThePrussian

        True, but iti is a big step forward.

        • guerillasurgeon

          No actually I don’t believe it is. There is far too much emphasis on individualism these days and far too little on one’s social responsibilities – such as vaccination.

          • ThePrussian

            You ever looked at what societies are like that actually do put society and group ahead of the individual?

          • guerillasurgeon

            You mean Scandinavian countries? Places like that? That have little poverty and high standards of living, cheap, government health care? As opposed to the US, with low rates of vaccination, crap health care, and so on?

    • Nerdsamwich

      I’d say that our egalitarian system and ethical individualism came from Scandinavia, where they had such things long before the coming of the White Christ. In fact, equality before the law is not a feature of Christian governments of the time, or any time, really. Rather, the English got the idea from the Norse, and exported it to the Americas, where the settlers broke with their traditions and founded a basically equal society. Of course, it was, and is, still biblically tainted, see slavery and the current brouhaha over homosexuality. Point is, I disagree with you. I think we have what we have despite Christianity, not because of it.

    • Gandolf

      Isn’t ? ethical individualism the position that individual conscience and reason and suchlike is used to define moral principles.And that there is no objective authority or standard that people are bound to consider.

      I would have thought religion might tend to work against ethical individualism