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Monday, September 21, 2009

Letter to a Young Skeptic of Color


By Sikivu Hutchinson

For the longest time religion has simply been an accepted way of life for you, unchallenged, unquestioned, a shopworn ritual, gentle as a vise. If you’re churchgoing the first seeds of doubt may be planted after squirming through umpteen marathon prayer sessions. If you’re not churchgoing, doubt may come from seeing all the privilege and status, the houses, cars and ring-kissing reverence lavished on the pastors, the bishops, the priests and other "hallowed" Christian elite.

At first, doubt feels as though you’re teetering, walking a tightrope over quicksand, staring down into a jury of horrified faces—of family, of friends, of anyone who has ever claimed the right to sit in judgment of you. In doubt, you look around you, and wonder about the incredible amount of real estate churches suck up, the dutiful who power the meager storefronts dotting every block, the elderly sisters resplendent in white usher’s uniforms scrounging their last Social Security check for the collection plate. As a questioning teenager these were indelible images for me, signposts driving through communities decades removed from the 1965 Watts uprising yet still steeped in its turbulence. As a black girl from a politically conscious, secular family this was the everyday currency of black community, “natural” and impenetrable, anchored by the belief that regardless of circumstance, regardless of the crushing blight of racial injustice, there was always the comforting bludgeon of blind faith.

In doubt, the prevalence of suffering and injustice are held up as “evidence” of God’s presence, the lifelong exam of hard knocks that you’re slapped down to take. Indeed, you are told, suffering and injustice validate the need to persevere, to lap up more scripture and take every hardship on the chin in submission to divine providence.

Yet you wonder how God could justify the near ritualistic killings of unarmed people of color by the police in your community, could sanction the lopsided numbers of black youth in prison versus those who go on to college, could turn a blind eye to the bulging ranks of your peers who are homeless, in foster care or simply on the brink. If you are middle class, in a comfortable home with no worries about where your next meal is going to come from, living the insular life of an average teenage sinner, you may be told that you are “blessed,” that it is part of God’s plan, and that you should not consider your good fortune in the context of others’ misfortune but concede to the mystery of God’s ways.

And yet, if you’ve been shattered, like so many of my students have, by the murders of friends who could read your mind, who could make you pee laughing one minute and drive you crazy with fist-clenching rage the next, who were your life raft body, soul and blood; then the bromide of unquestioning faith is brutally, viciously inadequate. Is, in fact, a mockery of justice, an absurd consolation as you walk through the shadows in the valley of death, tiptoeing past grave after grave of the departed, the bright-eyed sixteen, seventeen, eighteen year old black and brown faces cut down by boys that look like them the day before graduation, the night after prom, the morning of the first day of college. Will the Lord be your shepherd as it was theirs?

And if you are a young woman at this philosophical crossroads there is the question of whether there is safe space in a culture that defines your worth through conformity, submission and policed sexuality. Of whether your sisters will become the la Buena Mujer figure that your mother and her mother were trained to become, a figure based on the model of self-sacrificing saints and virgins, of protecting sinning menfolk, of being seen and not heard, of having every inch of one’s body mapped out and territorialized like the West Bank in Palestine.

If you have been questioning these violent contradictions you might be asked—what other models of morality are there? You may inwardly reply, “morality” as commandeered by preachers lambasting the gutter religions of competing cults, damning gays on Sunday and screwing everything that moves on Monday? Or “morality” as defined by predators in prayer robes insulated for generations from the full scrutiny of the law? Or “morality” as dictated by fundamentalist terrorists who sanction the murders of abortion doctors in defense of the “rights” of the unborn while millions of living breathing children go without health care in the wealthiest nation on earth?

If you have been grappling with these questions and see no concrete alternatives you may retreat from or go underground with your beliefs. But know that you are not alone in your doubts or passion for truth. There are others in your community who think as you do, who may have already been marginalized and dismissed for their views. They can show you that being a moral person, having inner strength and defining one’s path in life is not dependent upon bowing down to Gods, worshipping on Sundays, knowing scripture backwards and forwards and following the prayerful herd. As African American novelist Zora Neale Hurston once said, “I do not pray. I accept the means at my disposal for working out my destiny. It seems to me that I have been given a mind and willpower for that very purpose.” It is my belief that being a moral person and building a moral community is based on a justice compass, and it is what communities of color have bequeathed to this bloody experiment in "democracy" ever since the first European illegal “alien” occupied these native lands.

Sikivu Hutchinson is the editor of blackfemlens.org, a commentator for Some of Us Are Brave, KPFK 90.7 FM radio in Los Angeles and author of the forthcoming book Scarlet Letters on race/gender politics and atheism.

39 comments:

Greta Christina said...

Damn. Thank you. And beautifully written.

MagicallyAdept said...

Brilliantly written and a pleasure to read. Keep up your great work.

swordbearer said...

While Sikivu's approach may seem appealing to some, let the wise (whether poor and oppressed or not) consider several things:

1. Sikivu is not the first to question God's presence and justice in light of present injustices. Read Job 24 in the Bible where Job not only lists the injustices which continue to occur but also the terrible effects that result from them and raises the same issues Sikivu raises... even the question "WHY if God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked does it appear as if he does not?"

Realize: While God sets his own times for judgment, and while God may even let the wicked rest in a feeling of security, they have no assurance of life, & God's eyes are upon them! We must not confuse God's time of bringing judgment to suggest He doesn't care or won't bring judgment!

2. Turning from God and embracing athiesm is not going to change the oppression and injustice, it will only be to surrender the foundation for true justice as well as the true and abiding comfort in the midst of it.

3. Sikivu suggests God "justifies" the ritualistic killing of unarmed people, etc. This is false and nothing but a strawman.

4. Sikivu asks if the Lord will be your shepherd as he was for those who have been killed; ask the question - which is better... to have a Redeemer and eternal judge who will bring justice and give life, or to be in the grave as a result of injustice having trusted in oneself?

...This post appears nothing more than an attempt to capitalize on the misgivings of the marginalized and oppressed.

Aina said...

Wonderful! Thank you, Sikivu!

Richard said...

...Religion appears nothing more than an attempt to capitalize on the misgivings of the marginalized and oppressed.

Anonymous said...

@swordbearer

I hope your faith continues to make you happy with the world around you. However, your premise is the exact thing that the writer has chosen to give up. God does not exist therefore there is no presence of god justify, judgment to wait for, or redemption to look forward too. None of these things are, or arguably have every been, relevant any more.

Growing out of theism is not bad for those that do it, nor is it to those that still believe. Enjoy your life free to believe whatever you will, but expect to be judged for that belief, in the same measure as you yourself judge ours.

By the way there is no "embracing" atheism. Atheism is merely no longer believing any gods, no more, no less. You cannot embrace something that is defined by a non-belief.

VOD: SOS Mind Dr. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
VOD: SOS Mind Dr. said...

Wow. Excellent.

As a former SDA-turned-agnostic, this blog entry perfectly describes the process that I went through to get to the point where I am now. Even after over 3 years, it's still a struggle but it's one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life.

Thank you for reaffirming that it was the right decision even though it's still a struggle.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in South Africa, my memories of growing up are atheism being used as a slur against black people. It's probably why I have such trouble identifying it with being a particularly white movement.

The Nats strongly promoted religion as a part of South African culture.

It was shoved down my throat from so many angles, in so many ways. The teacher who used Bible stories to teach me to read, the preacher who seemed kindly as he took the money of people who he referred to as kaffirs behind their backs.

We were taught who to hate, and told God is love. Sometimes, it almost seemed true.

Politics was intensely religious. You didn't want to be a communist, and communists were atheists. Now it is taught that some of my country's greatest heroes were communists.

I lost my faith because I lost my fear. Fear of the black man, fear of communism, fear of identifying outside of the community. I guess being an English speaker helped.

And I suppose it also helps that my personal heroes growing up included the now obligatory figure of Nelson Mandela. He didn't do much as president, but he did it in a way that said WE are South Africans.

And that is what shifted me, that is what made me stop and think about just where I was coming from. Just how much had I accepted without actually examining it?

We come from different places you and I, different social expectations are placed on us, and yet I read your story and I see so much of it echoed in my life.

This is not a letter to a young skeptic of colour, this is a letter to all skeptics - well written.

Anders Branderud said...

That people gets killed/suffer of mistreatment.. it is terrible, but it is not because of the Creator, it is because of other evil people.

I reccomend this post: http://bloganders.blogspot.com/2009/09/bad-things-happen-to-good-people-why.html

You wrote: "They can show you that being a moral person, having inner strength and defining one’s path in life is not dependent upon bowing down to Gods"

What is moral right and moral wrong? Without a Creator there can be no objective moral. In bloganders.blogspot.com (left menu) you will find one proof for an Intelligent and logical Creator and how he want humankind to live.

Have a nice day! Anders Branderud

swordbearer said...

anonymous: "...However, your premise is the exact thing that the writer has chosen to give up. God does not exist therefore there is no presence of god justify, judgment to wait for, or redemption to look forward too." None of these things are, or arguably have every been, relevant any more."

Response: That's your opinion, which is not only unsubstantiated, but leaves you with nothing but relative ethics and morality at best ... which leaves you without rational authority to judge even the ones doing the killing. If you don't believe, tell us upon what authority killing is wrong (from your perspective).

anonymous: "...Enjoy your life free to believe whatever you will, but expect to be judged for that belief, in the same measure as you yourself judge ours.

Response: Interesting, you will judge my beliefs ... but how will you hold be guilty or responsible if I am (from your view) simply the result of an accidental origin which has been shaped by it's environment, and serving no ultimate purpose, etc.?

Anonymous: "By the way there is no "embracing" atheism. Atheism is merely no longer believing any gods, no more, no less. You cannot embrace something that is defined by a non-belief."

Response: The premise that there are no gods... is something which much be embraced just as the premise that there is a god. The atheistic worldview is a worldview just as any other worldview... even if it involves the rejection of other worldviews.

swordbearer said...

Anders Branderud,

You're right on target!

The evil perfomed by creatures does not implicate or deny the existence of the creator, but rather results in guilt and incrimination for the one perpetrating it.

Sikivu said...

Re., swordbearer:
While God sets his own times for judgment, and while God may even let the wicked rest in a feeling of security, they have no assurance of life, & God's eyes are upon them! We must not confuse God's time of bringing judgment to suggest He doesn't care or won't bring judgment!

And your evidence is???? We apostates prefer to let you and the other supernaturalists wait for "God's" inscrutable judiciousness to work it's magic (presumably in the "afterlife") on the usurpers. Check back with me from the pearly gates when you have some demonstrable proof.

"This post appears nothing more than an attempt to capitalize on the misgivings of the marginalized and oppressed."

As one of the previous posters noted this has been organized religion's racket since time immemorial (see Frederick Douglas, skeptic abolitionist: "revivals of religion and revivals in the slave trade go hand in hand”).

To anonymous: thanks for you eloquent post on South Africa and the communist/atheist witch hunts prevalent there. Unfortunately there is a somewhat similar vein of paranoiac demonization associated with atheism in some communities of color in the U.S.

Anonymous said...

Wow if you were White you could write for Storm Front. You are as racist as they come everything in your world is about color.

If you truly want to help your students try not to indoctrinate the into a state of victimhood.

Every person is responsible for their own fate. We all face adversity for one thing or another.

VOD: SOS Mind Dr. said...

I love how these Anonymous posters (if it's actually more than 1 poster posting under the guise of anonymity) can come in here and say all kinds of garbage but won't post under a real user name. At least swordbearer and Anders Branderud have the decency to speak their truth (emphasis on the word their) without anonymity.

Yeah, we have freedom of speech. Whatever. But if you don't like what's said here and feel that it's your place to proselytize people here like myself who have gone through what the blog founder has just described, you're actually negating our experiences and it's probably best that you return to your blog and/or read blogs where your truth is spoken and everyone else agrees with it.

swordbearer said...

sikivu: "And your evidence is?"

Response: Do you know of ANY who can assure their life? Are there not endless examples of those who are here today but gone tomorrow? The old expression "Lord willing and the creek don't rise" STILL applies today! While you yourself may put great confidence in your own strength, wisdom and power, you do not know what the future holds, much less can even you provide a guarantee on it.

Not only this, but history is full of examples of those who while they may seem to get away with evil for a time, later are singled out and receive due justice. Beyond this, the wicked even in this life experience their own consequences - a guilty conscience, fear of being found out or the fear of being called to account in the future (either in this life or the one to come), lack of true and abiding enjoyment in the things that should give pleasure, ... as Job writes "Surely he will have no respite from his craving; he cannot save himself by his treasure. Nothing is left for him to devour; his prosperity will not endure. In the midst of his plenty, distress will over take him; the full force of misery will come upon him. When he has filled his belly God will vent his burning anger against him... Terrors will overcome him; The heavens will expose his guilt; the earth will rise up against him, etc.... While many fail to recognize it, EVEN THE VERY WICKEDNESS he participates in is part of the punishment God gives him over to. Such is the fae God allots the wicked, the heritage appointed for them by God. The point being... just because someone doesn't go to jail, DOESN'T mean there aren't examples of judgment already present on a variety of levels even in this life!

sikivu: "... Check back with me from the pearly gates when you have some demonstrable proof."

Response: So, do you DENY there is ultimate accountability and justice??? That ought to be very encouraging to your oppressed readers (especially those who step past the graves one after another of friends and loved ones who have been done wrong)! Readers, consider atheism which basically leaves you a pitiless victim, and then consider the truth of God!

Jamie said...

@ Swordbearer

Sikvu asked you for evidence, and despite your long reply, you failed to provide any.

"You do not know what the future holds, much less can even you provide a guarantee on it."

And neither can you, unless you do have some evidence after all.

"So, do you DENY there is ultimate accountability and justice??? That ought to be very encouraging to your oppressed readers (especially those who step past the graves one after another of friends and loved ones who have been done wrong)! Readers, consider atheism which basically leaves you a pitiless victim, and then consider the truth of God!"

Do you deny that this is anything other than wish thinking? It might be very comforting for you to think that the people who are truly wicked during their lifetime are now being punished in hell, but you have absolutely no evidence for this.

Truth isn't about what makes you feel good - it's about how things actually are. It's also not there to make you feel good - unlike "the truth of God", which is nothing more than what you hope is going to happen.

Also, you quoted the Bible. Are you sure that you're worshipping the right god? Do you have any reason or evidence for your choice? Or do the words "reason" and "evidence" not register with you?

swordbearer said...

Jaime,

1. Sure I provided evidence. There's evidence of aspects of God's judgment in this life... not only the examples where indivuduals DO get their just retribution, but also such things as a guilty conscience, fear of being found out, the fact that one's deeds do not ultimately provide all the wicked think they will, etc.

2. As far as not knowing the future, you missed my point. It's not that I claim to know it either, but I presented it (as Job did) to show that while the wicked my seem to prosper and evade justice, their certainty and assurance is at best a false security... as the fact that they have no assurance of life shows (something which God in his wisdom ordered).

3. ...It might be very comforting for you to think that the people who are truly wicked during their lifetime are now being punished in hell, but you have absolutely no evidence for this.

Response: Not only does the presence of aspects of judgment in our present lives point to God's reality and to the truth of future judgment, but the CROSS of Christ and God's authoritative Word both reveal God's opposition to sin and the fact that he will not let the guilty go unpunished. At the same time, they reveal his great mercy and lovingkindness which is displayed through the redemption and forgiveness that comes through Christ's atonement.

Are YOU TOO offering a message of hope which provides no ultimate comfort to those whose loved ones have been killed without reason???

4. Truth isn't about what makes you feel good - it's about how things actually are. It's also not there to make you feel good -

Response: Seems that is what skivu was trying to do wasn't it?

Besides this, show us the EVIDENCE that you how things actually are concerning the meta-physical or afterlife. I'd love to see what authority you base your position on. An illustration has been given that if one is in a box, one doesn't know what's outside the box unless one can go or see outside the box themselves or if one from outside the box reveals it to them. Seems while you remain inside the box (the natural realm) and have no basis for claims concerning the spiritual realm, we have one who has come to make that realm known, even Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

5. Also, you quoted the Bible. Are you sure that you're worshipping the right god? Do you have any reason or evidence for your choice? Or do the words "reason" and "evidence" not register with you?

Response: Assurance is not a problem for those who know God and have been sealed by his Spirit. If you knew Him who reigns over all and the peace that he provides, you would not only recognize that salvation comes by faith (which is accompanied by reason) rather than by reason alone and you ask him for the gift that provides such peace, though now it must not only evade but be far from you.

Anonymous said...

@swordbearer

"Response: That's your opinion, which is not only unsubstantiated, but leaves you with nothing but relative ethics and morality at best ... which leaves you without rational authority to judge even the ones doing the killing. If you don't believe, tell us upon what authority killing is wrong (from your perspective)."

As a point of fact, it's none of your beliefs in a god(s) that are substantiated, mine at least have some explanation in evolution. There is an evolutionary advantage to treating others well. Not only are the individuals who are best adapted to their environment most likely to survive, but also groups. You help others survive so that they might help you survive. If you have some proof that it took a god(s) to instill morality I'm sure the rest of us would like to see it.

I won't make the claim that all morality and ethics have their roots in evolutionary pressure, but most of the important parts seem to, and that would include not murdering people.

What about you? How do you know it's wrong to kill? You say god tells you. How? The Bible?
The Bible has numerous examples in which god tells his chosen to kill, and not just kill but to murder even those who never lifted a weapon against them (the women and children). Is this moral? How do you know? How does it make you feel that your god could order such acts? What if he/she/it ordered you're destruction? Would you trust the men that came to your door to kill you and your family because they said god(s) told them to? Further, not really a moral question but, how would you know if they were truly sent by god(s) or not?

If you are being attacked and are in fear of your life, say from the men who said they were ordered by god(s) to kill you, is it okay to kill them to defend your life? How do you reach your answer, is there a passage in the bible that says it's okay? By defending yourself are you interfering with god(s) plan?

"Response: Interesting, you will judge my beliefs ... but how will you hold be guilty or responsible if I am (from your view) simply the result of an accidental origin which has been shaped by it's environment, and serving no ultimate purpose, etc.?"

Regardless of our origin and whatever you, swordbringer, believe is the motivator of your actions, god(s) plan or whatever, you as an individual are still responsible for what actions you take. I can and will judge them according to how it effects me, and I will not accept an excuse that it's god(s) plan. The basis of that judgment will be on the morals our society has developed as byproducts of our natural and social evolution. Sure some of those have been codified by religion, but they are based on deeper imperatives.

Also thats a pretty arrogant statement to say my life has no purpose because I don't believe in your particular creation myth. I am quite capable of finding purpose in my life without a creator thank you. I don't fear the responsibility of choosing my own purpose, nor am I disturbed by the fact that there is no "ultimate" purpose. Life is what it is, if we don't like it we do what we can to re-shape it.

~Greg (I choose not to register because I don't want to risk potential spam)

swordbearer said...

Greg: "... it's none of your beliefs in a god(s) that are substantiated, mine at least have some explanation in evolution. There is an evolutionary advantage to treating others well..."

Response: Really... seems Hitler claimed "survival of the fittest" and his view was the opposite. Same with those today who practice abortion, those who are looking to selective breeding of humans, etc. What does evolution have to say about human dignity and the survival of those who in the minds of some are not "fit"? ... and Who decides?

... and this on top of the basic issues involving evolution:
How does life come from no life? How do you explain the laws of logic? How do you explain the bacterial flagellum, etc.

Greg: "... You help others survive so that they might help you survive."

Response: So SELFISHNESS is the motive of helping others? Nice.

Greg: "If you have some proof that it took a god(s) to instill morality I'm sure the rest of us would like to see it."

Response: If you have another basis for it, I've love to hear it. And while you're at it, tell me whether laws come from nature or a law-giver.

Greg: "I won't make the claim that all morality and ethics have their roots in evolutionary pressure, but most of the important parts seem to, and that would include not murdering people."

Response: What if one (in evolution's perspective) set a greater priority on personal happiness than another's life (i.e., abortion)? Besides, if people are nothing but the result of an accident, then why protect their life?

Greg: What about you? How do you know it's wrong to kill?

Response: God's Word is authoritative, and it's truth is corroborated by man's innate convictions, and the consequences experience through obedience or disobedience.

Note: Apart from authoritative law, one could assume it's just as right to take life as preserve it. It it's relative, then whose to say whose right, and who decides? Even if the majority took one side, whose to say they were right and not the deceived ones?

Greg: "The Bible has numerous examples in which god tells his chosen to kill, and not just kill but to murder even those who never lifted a weapon against them (the women and children). Is this moral? How do you know?

Response: Your accusation is a common one from those who dissect the example from it's exegetical and cutural context. Give an example ... w/o either denying that God is both the lawgiver and judge ... and where the women and children were not opposing both the truth, majesty, and rightful rule and reign of the Lord?

Greg: How does it make you feel that your god could order such acts?

Response: You fail to distinguish between the dispensations of God's rule and ways.

Greg: "...Regardless of our origin ... you as an individual are still responsible for what actions you take."

Response: Am I your servant? Surely you wouldn't judge another's servant? (Sure, you are responsible to exercise discernment and even condemn that which is not right, but it's the basis that you do this, as well as the type judgment to carry out that I question).

Greg: "...thats a pretty arrogant statement to say my life has no purpose ... I don't fear the responsibility of choosing my own purpose, nor am I disturbed by the fact that there is no "ultimate" purpose."

Response: So, your beginning had no purpose, your end has no purpose, but you give it purpose in between and that purpose matters?

What is the purpose of humanity? Are you suggesting each person can have different, even conflicting and competing purposes?

Greg: Life is what it is, if we don't like it we do what we can to re-shape it.

Response: If life is what it is... how can you define it's purpose?

... All these issues display the weaknesses and insufficiences of a worldview based on naturalism. If one want's reasonable and satisfying solutions, one must look beyond the bankrupt worldview of naturalism and to the Christian worldview which stands the test of reason and time.

Seth said...

This isn't a debate folks. Don't feed trolls. Awesome post blackfemlens (if that is your real name :P ).

I totally feel where you are coming from even though I've had the benefits of unearned privilege. People should think about where their advantages are coming from. Winning on my merit is distinctly more satisfying than winning because I'm smart enough to stay ahead with all the advantages of a white male in America. Matter of fact, I don't even want to win if the whole bit is a zero-sum game. Just my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

"Response: Really... seems Hitler claimed "survival of the fittest"..."

Strawman argument. All people view thing from their own perspective, but more importantly Hitler was a Catholic and came to power with the backing of the Church, read your history.

"... and this on top of the basic issues involving evolution:
How does life come from no life?"

Evolution does not cover origin of life, only after. Pick up a textbook and educate yourself.

"Response: So SELFISHNESS is the motive of helping others? Nice."

Irrelevant, but amusing. Of course people are motivated by self interest, I challenge you to find more than a few examples otherwise. Even accepting your jesus into your heart is a selfish act. Don't believe me? Whats the punishment for not doing so? Next.

" 'If you have some proof that it took a god(s) to instill morality...' Response: If you have another basis for it, I've love to hear it. And while you're at it, tell me whether laws come from nature or a law-giver."
Why do you evade the question? I gave you my answer; it was a product of evolution, self interest as you put it. Ugly, brutish, but logical.

Feel free to let us know your proof any time now.

"Response: What if one (in evolution's perspective) set a greater priority on personal happiness than another's life"

People do this all the time. Good people negotiate compromises, bad people don't.

"Besides, if people are nothing but the result of an accident, then why protect their life?"

Because it is more often in your self interest to do so, even when it's not. Cats do it, http://www.purr-n-fur.org.uk/famous/scarlett.html
Do you think god(s) made cat's more selfless than people?

"Response: God's Word is authoritative, and it's truth is corroborated by man's innate convictions, and the consequences experience through obedience or disobedience."
Appeal to authority, not much of an answer. Why did you not choose to answer any of the other questions I posed on this?

"Note: Apart from authoritative law, one could assume it's just as right to take life as preserve it. "
An assumption based on what? Where does your god(s) stand on this issue?

"Response: Your accusation is a common one from those who dissect the example from it's exegetical and cultural context."

It's common because your kind has not provided a real answer. You follow a god(s) that says do as I say not as I do, not much of a moral leader, eh? I hope you don't teach your children the same way.

"Response: You fail to distinguish between the dispensations of God's rule and ways."

See above.

"Response: Am I your servant? Surely you wouldn't judge another's servant? "

The Nuremberg Defense: I was just following orders. Only at least those bastards actually had been ordered by something real, not some unproven god(s).

Of course I will judge you, you are responsible for your action, regardless of your excuse.

"Response: So, your beginning had no purpose, your end has no purpose, but you give it purpose in between and that purpose matters?"

Yep. You too, you just don't know it, yet.

"What is the purpose of humanity? Are you suggesting each person can have different, even conflicting and competing purposes?"

There is no purpose other than to exist. More than that we have created ourselves, and yes sometimes we come into conflict. Again, read a little history.

"... All these issues display the weaknesses and insufficiences of a worldview based on naturalism. If one want's reasonable and satisfying solutions, one must look beyond the bankrupt worldview of naturalism and to the Christian worldview which stands the test of reason and time."

What you see as weakness I see as strength. What you see as lacking I see as full. You lack an understanding of reason. The truth is often unsatisfying, but so is ignorance.


~Greg

swordbearer said...

A great example of what Job says:

"Yet they say to God, 'Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him? What would we gain by praying to him? BUT THEIR PROSPERITY is NOT IN THEIR OWN HANDS, so I stand aloof from the counsel of the wicked."

Seems... on the one hand he calles it "the benefits of unearned privilege", then he speaks of "winning on my merit", ....

People should think about where their advantages come from, but it's not ultimately at our disposal, for think of all the others who from man's perspective might "merit" the same, but do not receive the same opportunities/benefits. The question is, will you credit this to accident, to chance, or to the providence of God?

As any troll knows, accident & chance have never shown themselves or proven any power to decide anything, & to rest one's reasoning upon them proves irrational.

Besides this, common experiences alone are not to be taken to mean one is residing on the side of truth, for there are people of all persuasions who often claim common experiences.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh... hopeless.

Good luck to you.

swordbearer said...

Greg" Strawman argument. All people view thing from their own perspective, but more importantly Hitler was a Catholic and came to power with the backing of the Church, read your history.

Response: While there is question as to whether Hitler was truly a Catholic &/or remained a catholic; the point is irrelevant. What about those who believe the best method of advancing humanity is by selective murder/breeding?

Greg: Evolution does not cover origin of life, only after. Pick up a textbook and educate yourself.

Response: Depends on what context evolution is used in. There are many today who through evolution seek to espouse that supernaturalism/faith are wrong. Beyond this, there are MANY issues where evolution either cannot answer or are in conflict with reality/evidence.

Greg: (on SELFISHNESS being the motive of helping others) Irrelevant, but amusing. Of course people are motivated by self interest, I challenge you to find more than a few examples otherwise. Even accepting your jesus into your heart is a selfish act. Don't believe me? Whats the punishment for not doing so? Next.

Response:
1. You confirmed my point. (Readers - should you follow a worldview which posits "selfishness" as a modus operandi?)
2. There is a difference between self-interest and selfishness. Read and you'll see the difference makes a difference!
3. Yes - Jesus laid down his life for others. And there are many examples of individuals helping others living according to truth even to their own harm (from a simply physical perspective).
4. No, belief is a response to truth. The consequences & benefits stem from it.

Greg: (on the basis of morality)Why do you evade the question? I gave you my answer; it was a product of evolution, self interest as you put it. Ugly, brutish, but logical.

Response: Readers, note: The worldview offered on some on this side is "ugly, brutal"

Greg: Feel free to let us know your proof any time now.

Response: I see no evidence of laws originating from matter. The fact that there are laws points to a law giver. Besides this, pragmatically, relative morality & ethics leaves people with the situation of "calling good evil and evil good" and/or each person deciding for himself what is right and wrong, etc.

dites_moi_ou_pas said...

I would like to point out that to those "believers" arguing moral relativism and ambiguity, all religions are steeped in as much (if not more) relativism and ambiguity, not to mention duplicity.

There are things which we take as right and wrong lacking any notion of a god. Killing. Stealing. Raping. All things we consider bad and don't attribute as being bad because of a god.

You would do well to delve into evolutionary psychology, which describes how aspects which we consider "moral" are a matter of survival of the species and our own genes.

dites_moi_ou_pas said...

Oh, and also, the fact that there are laws points to man's inherent need to form into a social contract for the protection of self, i.e. I give up my right to kill you randomly so that you will not kill me randomly, etc, etc.

dites_moi_ou_pas said...

Anyway, blackfemlens... I stumbled upon this post and my hat off to you. This was fantastically written and wonderfully eloquent.

swordbearer said...

Too bad huh, when you decide not to kill someone else randomly so than don't kill you randomly, but they decide to play by a different set of rules. (Relative morality)

And yes... I've read quite a bit of evolutionary psychology (what an inconsistent body of results it puts out!)

And as far as social contracts, suppose a different society has different social contracts. Whose to say who is right and who is not? (Or, let me guess, it comes down to what "you" believe, since you are the de facto maker and judge of right and wrong)

In addition, while there's no doubt laws aid in survival, unless laws have some absolute aspect/relationship then they are reduced to a tool and as such lose their ultimate moral and ethical authority.

Do you think the social contracts you refer to will serve your OWN survival? For how long? And then what?

Anonymous said...

"Too bad huh, when you decide not to kill someone else randomly so than don't kill you randomly, but they decide to play by a different set of rules. (Relative morality)"

That's actually not relative morality, that's violation of the social contract. Which would be punished.

Christians frequently find science "inconsistent." Primarily with regards to their own religion.

"In addition, while there's no doubt laws aid in survival, unless laws have some absolute aspect/relationship then they are reduced to a tool and as such lose their ultimate moral and ethical authority."

Oooookaaaayyyy????? What's your point? There are laws, people can break them. The law itself is an "absolute aspect/relationship." There is no greater "moral authority" necessary for it.

"Do you think the social contracts you refer to will serve your OWN survival? For how long? And then what?"

Yes. It's called government. The legal system. The justice system. They serve my survival by outlawing things dangerous to my survival and persecuting those who do or would violate the "social contract." If it doesn't serve my survival and I die, it would persecute those responsible. And, frankly, if I'm dead, I won't much care then, will I?

I accept that you're attempting to illustrate that lacking a god to proclaim certain laws there is nothing to hold anyone to a certain law, but that is actually logically fallacious given that there are people who are religious and still break both common laws and laws set forth by their religion.

So then what is your point?

swordbearer said...

1. If "social contracts" are the standard, what do you suggest when the social contracts go against your convictions, or the convictions of the multitude? (Is the standard then shifted from the "social contract" to the multitudes, or to individuals, etc.)?

2. While "there are people who are religious and still break both common laws and laws set forth by their religion", that doesn't mean there is not ultimate accountability! In your worldview, such a thing exists. (My heart goes out to those who first being victims of horrific crimes... must them go on to be perpetual victims due to a worldview which can only say "too bad, so sad", but give no greater assurance that perpetrators do not get away with evil)

... besides, such a system might even encourage folks to commit evil if the benefits of getting away with it might outweigh the risks & likelihood of getting caught. Lord, help us, for too often this is the very case concerning those who either live inconsistently or deny your truth.

dites_moi_ou_pas said...

1. If "social contracts" are the standard, what do you suggest when the social contracts go against your convictions, or the convictions of the multitude?

Social contracts by nature exist for the protection of the society. They do not cater to whims, hence I'm not understanding why you're asking against it "going against convictions." A social contract is a generalized form of government/society.

2. While "there are people who are religious and still break both common laws and laws set forth by their religion", that doesn't mean there is not ultimate accountability!

There is the "ultimate accountability." It's called jail. Or death. And?

"... besides, such a system might even encourage folks to commit evil if the benefits of getting away with it might outweigh the risks & likelihood of getting caught."

I'm really struggling to be patient but you're not actually making much sense. Allow me to ask you this: do you feel encouraged to commit evil acts knowing that you might have a chance of getting away with it? As an atheist, I don't. I ascribe to the social contract of the US Government. I know that I could commit crimes and that I have chances of getting away with them, but I don't. I don't even feel compelled to commit them knowing that I could, and knowing that there is no deity or afterlife to "punish" me after death. Your argument is nonsensical.

swordbearer said...

Social contracts by nature exist for the protection of the society. They do not cater to whims, hence I'm not understanding why you're asking against it "going against convictions." A social contract is a generalized form of government/society.

Response: Suppose you lived in Germany in Hitler's day and the "social contract" was different - would you THEN look to the social contract as the standard of righteousness?

(I'm investigating where you put your ultimate standard of righteousness.... is it in "social contracts" or in something beyond... a few questions will help both you and me see where it actually lies)

2. There is the "ultimate accountability." It's called jail. Or death. And?

Response: And what about for those who don't go to jail??? What about them??? And don't just say death, for that is common to all (unless you are willing to AGREE that the wages of sin is death).

3. I'm really struggling to be patient but you're not actually making much sense. Allow me to ask you this: do you feel encouraged to commit evil acts knowing that you might have a chance of getting away with it? As an atheist, I don't. I ascribe to the social contract of the US Government. I know that I could commit crimes and that I have chances of getting away with them, but I don't. I don't even feel compelled to commit them knowing that I could, and knowing that there is no deity or afterlife to "punish" me after death. Your argument is nonsensical.

Response: My questions have been to get you to take your belief systems to their logical ends if carried out with consistency. Your admitting of the things I've said as non-sensical (which is "your belief system" carried to it's logical end) testifies to the foolishness of believing upon the foundations you do.

dites_moi_ou_pas said...

Suppose you lived in Germany in Hitler's day and the "social contract" was different - would you THEN look to the social contract as the standard of righteousness?

You're applying value judgements where there should be none. A social contract exists, the members of said contract ascribe to it (or don't and are punished). Period.

If you want to place value judgements on the "rightness" of particular political ideology, then that's an entirely different creature.

Response: And what about for those who don't go to jail??? What about them??? And don't just say death, for that is common to all (unless you are willing to AGREE that the wages of sin is death).

I don't believe in sin, so I do not believe that "death" is a response to sin. Sometimes people don't go to jail or don't get punished for bad actions. That is unfortunate. It is also reality. It just is what it is. I do not believe that there is an invisible boogeyman waiting until they die to punish them. End of story.

My questions have been to get you to take your belief systems to their logical ends if carried out with consistency. Your admitting of the things I've said as non-sensical (which is "your belief system" carried to it's logical end) testifies to the foolishness of believing upon the foundations you do.

This sentence actually doesn't make sense in it's own right, so I'm going to try and respond with what I believe the translation to be.

You're attempting to dig around and understand my belief systems in such a way that it somehow inadvertently proves that I believe in sin or god or heaven or hell or at the very least that my belief systems are loosely based upon any of the above. I don't and they are not. I don't believe that actions or non-actions are predicated upon the existence of a god and said god's sense of rightness any more or any less than I believe they are predicated upon the existence of a magical unicorn and its sense of rightness.

swordbearer said...

You're applying value judgements where there should be none. A social contract exists, the members of said contract ascribe to it (or don't and are punished). Period.

Response - So you have no problem with those who would oppose Hitlers ways being punished??? (Note: some social contracts in this world are not agreed upon, but placed on others, even by evil and wicked dictators... are these contracts to be the standard of ethics and morality???

======================
If you want to place value judgements on the "rightness" of particular political ideology, then that's an entirely different creature.

Response: Now we're getting tom my point. So if the standard is necessarily in a social contract (which represents particular ideologies), then where does the standard lie? ... I'm waiting to see where you place it next!
==============================

I don't believe in sin, so I do not believe that "death" is a response to sin. Sometimes people don't go to jail or don't get punished for bad actions. That is unfortunate. It is also reality. It just is what it is. I do not believe that there is an invisible boogeyman waiting until they die to punish them. End of story.

Response: So the VICTIM whose perpetrator gets away (and does not go to jail) is a VICTIM FOREVER! (Great comfort!)

======================
Besides this, if it's not a violation of an absolute, eternal law, then is it only a violation of a human social contract? If so, on what authority must one keep human social contracts? If they are made by humans, can they not also be changed or broken or denied by human authority as well? You are like a child who wants to agree with others to play by rules (which have no ultimate authority) and then when others want to change or break the rules, you want to cry foul, but they don't care...

==========
...You're attempting to dig around and understand my belief systems in such a way that it somehow inadvertently proves that I believe in sin or god or heaven or hell or at the very least that my belief systems are loosely based upon any of the above. I don't and they are not. I don't believe that actions or non-actions are predicated upon the existence of a god and said god's sense of rightness any more or any less than I believe they are predicated upon the existence of a magical unicorn and its sense of rightness.

Response: No, I have not even gone there yet, I was simply examining your beliefs (and their logical ends).

Your reference to a magical unicorn is simply the childish diversion of those whose beliefs cannot be defended. I believe you do believe in a magical unicorn though, a made up God who though he didn't create and doesn't rule seeks to play as though he is the lawmaker, ruler and judge (even one who determines the purpose of life) Only thing is, the magical unicorn, is only a character in the book, of which the unicorn himself will be held to account.

dites_moi_ou_pas said...

I’m tired of the strawmanning. I actually had posted a reply to this but can’t seem to find it now, so I’m ignoring the strawmanning and getting more to the point, especially given that you don’t seem to grasp the idea of a social contract.


Life is not comforting. Life is hard. Life is sad and scary and painful. A victim does not become un-victimized because a perpetrator is punished.

I literally laughed out loud at your last comments, they were so farfetched. Frankly, had I not seen that you were affiliated with a Christian blog I would believe you were an atheist troll yanking the chain of the responders.

It is presumptuous and absurd to think that you can somehow understand my beliefs better than I can, particularly given that we are strangers. You are the one who believes in a made-up god – your own magical unicorn. Your entire posting has been a rambling series of “childish diversions” lacking neither clarity of thought nor reason (and certainly not directness).

We have attributed certain actions to being “good” or “bad” for a couple of simple reasons. The first is that it is genetically coded into our DNA to have an aversion to things which would compromise our survival as species and individuals. Hence, social contract. The second is that as a species we experience certain basic emotions: compassion, empathy, love. None of these reasons are rooted in a god or gods. They simply are. Therefore, we protect our young, care about others of our species in pain, couple, mate, take care of our children. No supreme deity exists which somehow engenders these feelings in ourselves. They’re a part of our collective social conscious.

swordbearer said...

Greg: Life is not comforting. Life is hard. Life is sad and scary and painful.

Respone: So atheism as a worldview dissatisfies and suggests justice is limited to human origin and accountability. If by human origin, justice is subject to change, to be disregarded at times without consequence, to be inconsistent, to be subject to wickedness and the whelms of those in charge, and to fail even those who advocate it.

Greg: A victim does not become un-victimized because a perpetrator is punished.

Response: A victim can receive and expect justice, or become a victim again due to the absence of accountability and justice.

Greg: It is presumptuous and absurd to think that you can somehow understand my beliefs better than I can ...

Response: I didn't claim that. I was simply asking questions & providing you an opportunity to explain and define your beliefs.

Greg: You are the one who believes in a made-up god – your own magical unicorn.

Response: And your evidence is???

Greg: We have attributed certain actions to being “good” or “bad” for a couple of simple reasons. The first is that it is genetically coded into our DNA to have an aversion to things which would compromise our survival as species and individuals.

Response: Tell me then...
1. Abortion - is it moral or immoral?
2. Elderly who cannot "contribute" to society and prove costly to sustain their lives - what is to be done with them?
3. Define survival for me - does it mean the survival of every individual, & every possible individual, or survival of the fittest?
4. Who determines what survival means?


Greg: The second is that as a species we experience certain basic emotions: compassion, empathy, love. None of these reasons are rooted in a god or gods.

Response: Explain how compassion, empathy and love came to be through evolution. What is their origin?

Greg: ...They simply are.

Response: Now, that's a step of FAITH if I've ever seen one! No origin, they just simple "are". (And you accuse Christians of a magical unicorn???)

Greg: Therefore, we protect our young, ...

Response: Looking forward to your answer on abortion

Greg: "... No supreme deity exists which somehow engenders these feelings in ourselves. They’re a part of our collective social conscious.

Response:
1. Your proof is ???
2. Where did your desire for survival come from? Where did it originate? Where did even the intelligence come from?

==== Finally, Greg, Tell me:
1. If there are laws of physics which are absolute, principles of finance, principles of relationships, laws which govern the universe, rules which govern agriculture, etc., all of which originate & sustained apart from humanity, why is it you believe the laws of ethics and morality find their source and authority in humanity?
2. Are you a moral person? Or do you deny God's law to excuse yourself because you can't meet his standard of righteousness? If you knew both the grace and justice of God, you would not only deny his justice but delight in it casting yourself upon him for both mercy and righteousness.

shutch said...

"Yes. It's called government. The legal system. The justice system. They serve my survival by outlawing things dangerous to my survival and persecuting those who do or would violate the "social contract." If it doesn't serve my survival and I die, it would persecute those responsible. And, frankly, if I'm dead, I won't much care then, will I?"

Well said Greg & Anonymous. Again, the supernaturalists seek refuge in doubletalk when there is no rational, scientific or empirical basis for their culturally contextual/biased claim of "God-decreed" universal moral authority. Swordbearer if you had been born in the Tamil region of India or suddenly woke up one morning as a Bedouin pastoralist in the Middle East you would be spewing an entirely different line of theological rhetoric. As Michael Shermer said, "Christians today might say, I don't believe in Zeus, that was a silly superstition. Yet for many people that was a real god. So it turns out there are 10,000 gods and yet only one right one. That means we're all atheists on 9,999 gods. The only difference between me and the believers is I'm an atheist on one more god."

swordbearer said...

Shutch: "... the supernaturalists seek refuge in doubletalk when there is no rational, scientific or empirical basis for their culturally contextual/biased claim of "God-decreed" universal moral authority.

Response: Which is more rational - life from no life, intelligence from a designer or from matter, morality that is universal or morality that man (who doesn't have moral foundations makes up)??? Answer that!

Your ignornace is found in your methodology - seeking to verify, explain or rule out the metaphysical by limiting the possibilities to only that which may be defined by science. By such a method, even beauty, love, etc., do not exist!

Shutch: Swordbearer if you had been born in the Tamil region of India or suddenly woke up one morning as a Bedouin pastoralist in the Middle East you would be spewing an entirely different line of theological rhetoric..."

Response: Old argument. Fails in several ways:
1. Religion is not a substitute for regeneration and often stands in it's way.

In fact, being born in a Christian environment, my greatest obstacle (on one level) to a saving relationship with God was the "religion" I sought to substitute for Christ! If you were familiar with Jesus' declaration to the woman at the well (John 4), you would know it's not "religion" that saves but God.

2. God is not limited by man's geography or religious origns, but seeks and saves who he will.

This was proved even through examples such as Abraham, Ruth, etc.

The truth is that grace is offered even to you as well though the gospel of Jesus Christ. Your greatest concern should be not so much the advantages or disadvanges of particular people groups but your own response to the Christ who has said "Come unto me you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest, rest for your soul" With the promise before you, your geographic or religious orign/environments will be an excuse.