Wednesday, 19 October 2011

On objective morality - hear Dan Barker

Continuing to learn from interactions with interested readers another comment recently from one of my valued (but possibly deluded) audience seemed to disagree with my suggestion that there is no such thing as objective morality.

Actually I would go further than that and suggest that there is not even objective morality within the christian community.  Hear ex-christian preacher, now atheist, Dan Barker, speak on the subject.

Barker is co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and you can hear him speak every week on Freethought Radio.  It is one of the podcasts that I regularly listen to.  If you can get a copy of his book Losing Faith in Faith I would recommend it.

Perhaps after watching that video you can tell me how there is one morality for men and another for capriciously malevolent fictional characters?


Hilary said...

Ah, Jesus was very very clear about morality. He said it such things as murder begins in the heart, as does all sin... the apostle Paul also pointed out that it is impossible to fulfill the ten commandments as every one breaks at least on in their heart, and in fact, every single person on the face of the Earth has a sin problem, which can only be dealt with at and by the Cross, as in Jesus was crucified for each and every one of us, so that He took the punishment that we deserve so that we can be reconciled to God the Father. Then He, sent the Holy Spirit so that we could be empowered to strive to live a life of Holiness.

I read recently, that pretty much everyone will admit to being a 'sinner' or not perfect (to put in into words more palatable than some can cope with) but very very few will acknowledge to being a 'helpess sinner' in other words, one who acknoweldges that they cannot attain to God's standard without His help.
That's the Gospel in a nutshell.

Self righteousness is when we think we can do without God and specificall the God whom Jesus is the face of, and the embodiment of and the character of :)

krissthesexyatheist said...

Awesome sauce. Dan is coming to my humble 'lil town (sac-a-potatoes. CA) this weekend and I hope that I can meet him (and ask his hottie wife if she has any sisters). Awesome sauce,


Plasma Engineer said...

@Hilary - that's as maybe, but the question was about whether there is such a thing as objective morality. By no stretch of the imagination can the teachings of Jesus be relevant to that question. Objectiveness rises above those sayings.

What you wrote is a very good example of the way that a sermon can appear to answer a question without actually touching on the question that was asked.

Plasma Engineer said...

@kriss - the other week you were wishing you could see a speaker who was here in the UK and this week you are the one who is in luck. I would be fascinated to meet Dan too, and of course Annie Laurie. Don't forget to tell him that he featured on one of your favorite UK blogs this week. :))

Hilary said...

The prob with his argument based on Job and the fictitious person who breaks into the house, is that he has taken the quote from Job completely out of context. Actually, Job is an amazing book in the Old Testament and completely lays to rest the belief by the religious of the day that bad things happen to us because we do wrong things.
Job has to battle against his 3 supposed well meaning friends who see him sitting in the dust and wrongly assume that he has a whole assortment of possible things he has done wrong, ranging from his wrong attitude towards God, to some wrong doing in his past. Job however battles through, from shouting loudly at God, being very angry with God, gradually to realising that deep down he still believes in the goodness of God and still trusts Him for His life. In the end God challenges Job, and Job encounters the living God. BUT God justifies Job, and berates Job's friends, and tells the friends that Job was honest and real before God and did not try to pretend and put a religious mask on.
The even bigger picture is that the book of Job shows that satan, the devil, the presence of evil can throw its worst at a believer, but ultimately the believer is in God's Hands and protected both in life, sickness and death.
I am sure you are familiar with the piece of music called The Messiah, and the line in it that is "Yet I know that my redeemer lives..." this line is from Job chapter 19 verse 25 and is an outstanding verse of Scripture from an Old Testament point of view, as it is a declaration of there being a life after death and a Redeemer being there to rescue and to take through death to the other side of death.

The entire debate of God and satan is based on satan's accusation (the word satan means the accuser btw) that it is all very well Job believing God when things are going well, but what about when things go wrong, will his faith stand up to the test. So, this is the reason behind God then allowing satan a certain amount of power in Job's life...

Is this not one of a typical accusation of atheists of believers too, that christians who have lots of money and wealth such as the tv evangelists and co, are all very happy and a further accusation that they are in fact making money from promoting the Gospel? This is exactly the same accusation against Job from satan, and no doubt from many of Job's day...Job was a very wealthy man...if you like a tv evangelist of his God allowed him to be put to the test...and he came through...and became wealthier than before in every way possible...

I find it interesting, just to note that many of the tv evangelists have had the most dreadful traumas that they have lived through. One very well known evangelist lost his daughter through a terrible illness...he and his wife have then been able to encourage many since...

not saying that every evangelist is honest and has integrity and are genuine, but I am aware of many of them who have come under the same sort of trial as Job did...

Also many of my friends have also come and are going through such trials...and come through stronger in faith than before...

Life does happen, good and bad happens to us all...but as a christian I know that God will always see me through. Last year I went through my own trauma and were it not for the Lord I would not have survived the way I did.


Hilary said...

I find it interesting to read about this man. He has chosen not to believe and then attempts to justify his non belief in a variety of arguments which are not logical at all. Hearing him speak, I long will it be before he renounces his unbelief and returns to proclaiming Christ. To all you atheists, I would be careful not to pin your hopes on this man being an example of an atheist. He is a man clearly who once he chooses to believe something is a leader in his field. However, this is also a man who freely but painfully confesses to having pretended for a number of months to hold to christian beliefs when in fact he was really not in his mind and heart believing...but was engaging in an innter struggle. The struggle can go both ways...when he returns to his former beliefs his arguments will be formidable and he will be a giant against atheistic prepared :)

Derby Sceptic said...

@Hilary - Have you read Dan's comment?
“If I had limited myself to Christian authors, I’d still be a Christian today,” He lost his faith because he questioned it rather than simply following christian authors who of course support christianity.
I don't see any reason he would return to that faith now or in the future.

Hilary said...

D.S well if he had a real conversion then the Holy Spirit of God would/will be within him, and all he says and does now against Christianity will be tearing him apart on the inside until either he returns to the faith or he will become very ill due to inner conflict. If he does not have the Spirit of God within him, then he has never truly been a Christian. Any conflict he has will merely be due to a conflict of interests and emotional ties rather than with the Spirit of God.

With respect, having read up about this guy, I've probably read more atheist authors than he has (he doesn't seem to quote the really good ones lol) and all that has done is to reveal to me just how unfounded the atheist arguments are and how they simply spin an argument.

When a person truly had the Spirit of God within, then to go against the Spirit is a dangerous thing healthwise in every way.

When I watch his videos there is something about this man that tells me he really has known Christ and that he has simply become entangled with arguments that he has not seen through yet.

Derby Sceptic said...

Hilary: So are you saying that he has always been an atheist and that he just tried to fit in as a christian? Perhaps this is because family or society expected it.

I am concerned however by your remark 'When a person truly had the Spirit of God within, then to go against the Spirit is a dangerous thing healthwise in every way.'

That is just a threat from your god / christ against one of his 'flock'. That does tie in with the bible (see the link below to a post by Rosa Rubicondior) but is in conflict with what christians profess as a loving god.

Plasma Engineer said...

We are getting a bit off the topic of Objective Morality and still I have seen absolutely no evidence for it and a lot of evidence against it.

As for the integrity of Dan Barker, I think I can be sure that I have read and listened to much more of his work than anyone else in this debate - possibly with the exception of Kriss. For 19 years the man was a totally committed evangelising christian who gave all his time to god, using his music in his work. He might not have read atheist writings as much as @Hilary but he knows the bible inside-out and that in itself is enough to convince most people of the inconsistency of its story. The bible is a one-volume study in cognitive dissonance, and this is exactly the sort of thing that causes the illnesses described above!

Then as he says in his book, he lost faith in faith, but being a man of integrity he wanted to fulfill his booking commitments before escaping from christianity. He wanted to hurt as few people as possible and of course found it terribly difficult to get out of the situation he was in.

He tells a story of how a lady came up to him after he had preached and told him that she could feel the power of the spirit talking through him better than ever before - and that this happened only after he had stopped believing.

These days he is very much involved in a project with Daniel Dennett and Linda LaScola to help other preachers who are in the same situation to escape and rebuild their lives. There are very many of them around the world, as I am sure you know.

His general calm demeanour tells me that he is very much at peace with this decision. Nobody who has actually escaped the tyranny of 'the holy spirit' can truly appreciate the peace that comes with it. Its very much a one-way ticket for any of us, and far from dangerous, and there will be no return for Dan Barker. He would be just as likely to turn to islam or voodoo. Not very likely at all!

The suggestion that atheists are not 'real atheists' and that they will turn back to Christ is one of 'the oldest in the book'. Just once in a blue moon it happens - but it is very much the rarity. It represents the triumph of hope over experience more than anything else.

[But of course Dan's recent illness (kidney stones I think) must be due to the inner struggle with the holy spirit? Yeah right!]

Plasma Engineer said...

Oh yes - with regard to the long story about Job in 'Hilary's earlier comment, I disagree with almost every sentence. However you interpret the story of Job, the reported actions of his 'god' are nothing but reprehensible to any moral person.

Hilary said...

So...tell me...define morality! What makes an action ok or not ok?

Why do you not think that Jesus' teaching not the bedrock of all morality? Is there a fault with His teaching? If so where and what is it?

D.S by dangerous I mean exactly what I said, when a person has the Spirit of God living within, to go against that Spirit is healthwise both physical and mental and emotionally a dangerous thing. This is not a threat, it is a fact. God is good, and to go away from goodness residing within is dangerous.

If a child suddenly turns against their parents and does lawless deeds and begins to slander their parents, do their parents say oh that's fine, they have free will, we're happy about his/her behaviour. Do other people then question the parents and say 'oh what dreadful parents trying to persuade their child to behave sensibly etc...?' the arguments against God being some sort of tyrant are plainly rediculous.

Also, I am not suggesting that Dan Barker was never a christian, I am suggesting it was a possibility. I think the likelihood is that he was a genuine christian and is struggling with some issues and has done for many years.

I am not casting doubt on his integrity either P.E he comes across as a very genuine person who has and is going through a monumental struggle. He doesn't come across as peaceful about his current position to me.