Friday, 16 December 2011

A Big Question for Christians

Christians often ask atheists a question that they seem to think is the blockbuster that proves that their faith is well founded. 

"How do you know what is right and wrong if you don't believe in (our) god?

It is not unusual to hear them ask what stops us from killing and stealing and raping, and it is not even unusual to find people - christian people! - who will claim that if there was no god then nothing would stop them from a frenzy of 'sin'.  I find that quite shocking!

Strangely, atheists have no problem knowing the answer to this.  If anything, we struggle to understand how the question is in any way meaningful.  We don't need to use data (such as the observation that only 0.2% of people in prison in USA are atheists, whereas perhaps 15% of the population are 'out' atheists).  We just know that some things are right and some are wrong, and can distinguish between them quite easily.

But let us turn the question the other way round.

"Dear Christians - if you know that you can be completely forgiven for all your sins, what stops you from killing and stealing and raping as much as you want to just now?"

Doesn't that question sound ridiculous when it is that way round?  Doesn't it sound offensive? 

Many atheists are similarly outraged and offended when you ask it your way too - please remember that.

Incidentally - this is not really intended to be a question for Catholics.  I have noticed that this concept has not escaped some of them.  Whole 'Catholic countries' cheerfully ignore some of the teachings of their church and perhaps they confess it - or perhaps they don't.


Hilary said...

...not offensive a question so much as showing a complete ignorance of the Christian faith. Jesus said "If you love me you will obey my commands"

I think as well as has been said before, not everyone who calls themselve a Christian actually is. Jesus said "you will know them by their fruit" as in a bad tree bears bad fruit, and good tree bears good fruit...Jesus said, "the world will know you are my disciples by the way that you all love and care for one another" You can be pretty sure that if those who declare themselves christians are not showing that love and care, it is then to be doubted that they are really following Christ. However, I think you know this really :)

Derby Sceptic said...

To the Christians who cannot understand how atheists have morals I would like to quote from August Berkshire

"There are certain consequences that naturally follow from being an atheist. Since there are no gods to help us, we must rely on ourselves and each other. Since there is no afterlife, it becomes more important to improve life on Earth."

See the full document here:’s-of-Atheism-tri-pane-MNA.pdf

Ed said...

Or you could say that morals are rules to enable the long-term survival of our cooperative species. They are a product of evolution. All religious rules promote either the survival of the species or the survival of the religion. The second set can go extinct now that we know this.

Anonymous said...

Well in response to your comment we must ask whether there is improvement on Earth...since there is such a great motivation of not having an after-life.

Anonymous said...

I think we must define what is meant by religion. As Christians we do not live in fear of a loss of religioun as we believe in a living God in relationship with His creation - we believe in a relationship with God under grace through His son Jesus. relationship requires time and love, not rules.

Derby Sceptic said...

Like many other atheists, I endeavour to live my life to high standards with respect for others. I cannot, and should not, order others to do so but hope that they will out of their own free will.

Plasma Engineer said...

Oh yes - try saying that again with a straight face, and see the post next Tuesday about Christianity being a religion (or rhetorically not).