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November 02nd 2017 print

Peter Smith

God of Man and Cockroaches

Imagine all belief in God is gone. What moral law will then prevail in such a vacuum? What's to prevent some lives being deemed worthwhile and others not?  Some will be adjudged as contributors to the greater good and others not. The latter will be dispensable

cockroach humanGreg Sheridan had an article on belief in God in the online Sunday edition of The Australian. I liked the article but was especially taken with its opening quote from English poet and writer Philip Larkin. “And what remains when disbelief has gone?”

I sent the article to a number of disbelieving friends of mine. I don’t think they will be persuaded to alter their views. More than this, I did not detect, when I spoke to them about it, much understanding of the import of Larkin’s point. I don’t think they got it or, perhaps, they didn’t want to get it.

Right now, disbelief is militantly proselytised because belief exists. And here I will go out on a limb: I think those who disbelieve in God gain vicarious comfort from those who believe, in order to ward off the moral implications of disbelief.

Those who disbelieve in God must believe in something, though I have found them strangely reluctant to say what it is. Or perhaps they are so concentrated on what they don’t believe that they have given too little thought to what they do believe. I will help them out.

What they believe is that we have by chance evolved from inanimate matter, as have cockroaches. We are better looking than cockroaches – I think – can do more things, and have much more powerful brains. Mind you, what can be said of us in relation to cockroaches can be said to a large degree of squirrels and, obviously, of apes.

My point is that aesthetics and intelligence apart, we and cockroaches are equally products of random mutations and natural selection. They went one way, us another. There is nothing more to it; unless I have missed something in the atheists’ kit bag of the origin of the species.

Humans find cockroaches unpleasant and often kill them in various way, including by squashing. So what? There will be more cockroaches where they came from. How about bigger humans squashing smaller ones whom they find disagreeable? There are man-made laws prohibiting that, but is it wrong? By wrong, I mean is it ethically and morally wrong? Is it worse than squashing cockroaches?

Those who disbelieve in God sometimes say that we have evolved to protect each other in order to advance the human species. This doesn’t do it for me as a moral stricture. It’s a bootstrap’s theory without external underpinning. And it seems to support any action undertaken for the greater good.

Hitler, Pol Pot and Stalin probably thought that their policies and actions were for the greater good of the German, Cambodian and Russian peoples. Of course, you can argue they were wrong; that is, that they mistakenly chose the wrong path. But what of their intentions? Clearly, these were acceptable, were they not, in so far as they were aiming for the greater good.

None of this is palatable for any of us who are neither sociopaths nor psychopaths. So, disbelievers have a problem if they think about the implications of their disbelief. And here is where believers come in.

Believers have an external moral compass provided by God who made us. Disbelievers, I don’t care what they say, draw comfort from the believers around them. There might be something in it they secretly think, or hope. That’s why in extremis they appeal to God. Their disbelief is a fair-weather ethos; a mere debating position.

Now imagine all belief is gone. Then, of course, disbelief will be gone too, having nothing to parasitically live off. What moral law will then prevail in this vacuum? What will prevent assessments being made that some lives are worthwhile and others not?  Some will be adjudged as being contributors to the greater good and others not. The latter will be dispensable.

We already have seen euthanasia and abortion on demand in many Western countries as Christianity’s role in life has diminished. Killing for convenience is increasingly becoming more acceptable. What if all belief and thus disbelief fell away to nothing and the evolutionary principle of the greater good became undisputed king. I wouldn’t want to be around. And neither would most present-day atheists. The weather would have turned from fair to foul.

Peter Smith, a frequent Quadrant Online contributor, is the author of Bad Economics

Comments [64]

  1. innocuous says:

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence! Christopher Hitchens. Peter is an Atheist in relation to Islam and as I recall from previous articles quite ardent about the dangers of this brutal theocracy. But surely they believe in God so their Morals are superior to those who don’t believe. I also take issue with the term ‘disbeliever’, it seems to imply that there is something quite obvious that is being missed, something obvious, I refer back to my opening quote.

    • Stephen Garland says:

      What you missed the whole universe! Seek and you shall find!

    • Lawrie Ayres says:

      Since none of us know God except as an entity we should pray to we have to rely for an insight into this all powerful being on his prophets. Islam is based on the view of one man, Muhammad, who from what I understand gained his knowledge through a series of visions and conversations with the Archangel Gabriel. Muhammad seems to have got everything a tyrant might wish for including young girls and the right to slaughter those who opposed him. Bottom line Muhammad at best had third hand guidance and much of it could be wishful thinking. Contrast that to Jesus who we believe came from God and was His son. His instructions were and still are about as opposite to the Koran as it is possible to be. He was peaceful, respectful of all and had two commandments; Love God and love one another. Compare that message to Muhammad’s my way or the highway or more accurately, my way or die. You could argue from the atheist point of view that neither is correct since, although there is enough evidence to show they both lived, they could not have gained their special relationship with God since God does not exist. Strangely though there have been few if any civilizations in recorded history that did not have religion and belief in a higher being or beings. It seems a part of the human DNA to have a belief in the next life and a need to please the being or beings that would determine your role in it. Of the seven billion people on Earth at this time there is only a minute proportion, most if not all of whom are Westerners, who deny the existence of a God. That tells me that disbelievers are fringe dwellers at best.

    • whitelaughter says:

      1) Religions claims are not extraordinary, ordinary people have always been religious.
      2) We have extraordinary evidence.
      3) extraordinary claims have always been proven using *ordinary* evidence. The idea that the Earth goes around the sun is extraordinary; the proofs are ordinary.

      As always, Christopher Hitchens merely proves that he’s a fool.

  2. rpickers says:

    Oh please Peter Smith. Why on earth are you trying to defend that grotesquely inadequate article in The Australian by Greg Sheridan? Any Jesuit would have been ashamed of such simplistic drivel offered on behalf of the faith. Not even a rampaging Dominican, eager to condemn to the stake anyone at the slightest indication of heresy could, in conscience, cop Sheridan’s woeful dissembling. Well, maybe someone immersed in the corporatist fascism of the oleaginous Bob Santamaria; but that shouldn’t count in contemporary Australia.
    In short, Sheridan offered two arguments [after a quick unsatisfactory review of Aquinas].
    First, after a bit of sneering at naturalist evolutionary theory, and some sideswipes at the lack of theological sophistication of the usual suspects like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, Sheridan offered his own highly sophisticated theological understandings of how to get around the problems of Genesis as true the record of creation as told by his God.
    [1] Consciousness and particularly self-consciousness proves the existence of God in the Hadith according to Greg. Borrowing from the ‘scintillating insights’ of a recent rather dodgy bit of apologetics, Purcell’s [2012] From Big Bang to Big Mystery, [the specific ideas of which had been around for 30 or more years and even sillier ones much longer - Teilhard de Chardin and the Piltdown Hoax anyone?] Sheridan offers up a ‘Big Bang’ of emergent consciousness somewhere in the evolutionary record from Lucy to the present day as proof that his theology is somehow not only consistent, but even more explanatory, than evolutionary science. So the consciousness ‘Big Bang’ is where God inserted souls into Lucy’s descendents Greg? Problem of Genesis, mud pies, spare ribs and evolution solved; no consciousness for lesser beings like cats, dogs, oysters and amoebas Greg?
    [2] But it is Sheridan’s second argument that is the killer. Greg has inner voices and therefore whatever they tell him must be true because he is conscious [1] and he heard them and you can’t disprove that he heard them and you can’t disprove that whatever they tell him is true and because you can’t disprove whatever the voices tell him is true and that anything you can’t disprove, such as God, must be true because you can’t disprove it. So there! Therefore, after running out of breath: Yahweh is true because you can’t disprove it.
    Leaving all that aside however, why is it that you need to find some ‘external’ moral compass Peter Smith? Do you seriously need to follow tablets of stone, as recorded in the Pentateuch amongst some of the most morally disgusting bits of behaviour that only a barbarous religion from the Middle East could justify, as a ‘moral compass’? There is nothing to be found there that has not been said better, and more compassionately, by other cultures at other times.
    If you really want a conservative philosophical basis for ethics, rather than an irrational belief in what you were told in scripture class, try reading the naturalism of David Hume: or some of the other deist writers of the Scottish sceptical Enlightenment if you really can’t put aside childish religious things and associated beliefs. If you don’t, you’ll add bad theology and worse ethics to your expertise in bad economics.

    • ianl says:

      Quite comprehensive and more than sufficient.

      I wish only to add that Peter Smith has written quite a few articles on these lines for QOL. Each of them, including this one, show no understanding of the actual detail of either evolutionary evidence or evolutionary process. It is, as you say, Cartoon Corner.

      • rpickers says:

        Only one other thing I’d add Ianl. Smith repeats the usual logical rubbish that a lack of belief or ‘disbelief’ [eg; atheism] is equivalent to a positive belief in the opposite. Well, I don’t believe in unicorns, but that does not mean that I therefore have a belief in anti-unicornism. I just don’t believe in unicorns; full stop.

  3. Ian MacDougall says:

    According to this, there could be no tolerable life in any non-Christian society.
    Yet China has had its own version of Christ’s ‘Golden Rule’, misleadingly referred to as the ‘Silver Rule’:

    What are the sources of the silver rule in Chinese philosophy?
    Yinya Liu: “The most famous is from Confucianism. In the Analects, there is a dialogue between Confucius and his disciple Zi gong, who asks: ‘Is there any one word that could guide a person throughout life?’ The Master replied: ‘How about shu: never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself?’

    This negative formulation is arguably superior to the positive one. For example, suppose I like having another person scratch my head. If I went around the place scratching crania according to my mood, it would not be long before it was generating the odd burst of hostility and even fist fights.
    From Confucius (551-449 BC) it possibly made its way via the Silk Road to the ME, word-of-mouth altering it on the way.

    https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/unthinkable-which-golden-rule-of-ethics-is-best-the-christian-or-confucian-1.1674003

    • whitelaughter says:

      You could *read* the Annalects – and learn better than to trust quotes like this. If you did so, you would learn that Confucius thought that you should learn and respect the religion and other beliefs of your ancestors, and that to fail to do so make you less of a person.

      or, you could have a look at what Chinese society was actually like; a legal system where evidence was irrelevant, and torturing a confession out of a suspect the norm. Where surgery – once the most advanced in the world – disappeared because when the greatest surgeon of the age, Hua Tuo, suggesting taking a scalpel to his ruler it was treated as an assassination attempt, and he was put to death!

  4. Father George Le Maitre surprised Einstein and upset the science is settled brigade by predicting the Big Bang as a necessary corollary to Einsteins general theory [Einstein and Newton had believed that the Universe is Eternal and Unchanging - the Greenies haven't caught up yet and are still foolishly trying to help the Green God by stopping change]. The big bang and the initial separation of radiation and matter confirm genesis.

    Pasteur likewise upset the science is settled religion by proving that all Life comes from pre-existing Life. Accordingly Human Life is a Gift from pre-existing Divine Life.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      Ahem. The Earth was created in 6 days, give or take a couple of hours. Adam and Eve and the dinosaurs all in there together. And that so-called ‘Precambrian’ was jumping alive with rabbits.
      Links follow.

      cf: https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Falsifiability_of_evolution

      • Peter says:

        Is the six days allegorical? Or does it reflect the state of Universe in the beginning phases when time was dilated?

        • Ian MacDougall says:

          Some bits of the Bible might be allegorical, and some not, depending on the circumstances and transient needs of the user and quoter thereof. As the old saying has it, ‘the Devil can quote scripture for his own ends.’ This is because the Bible is not the work of one writer, making it a small library rather than a single book.
          The Koran is the final unalterable word in Islam, and as far as we know is the work of a single crackpot in an Arabian cave: though there could have been more than one cave involved.
          This ‘allegorical’ school of theological interpretation is IMHO a total cop-out, and is selectively applied. Genesis says six days: not six phases, six periods or six whatyoumaycallems. Six days. Full blanky stop.
          It’s a bit like Tony Abbott’s selective endorsement of science.
          Of course, Christ himself was not above this sort of fudging.

          One of them showed him a Roman coin, and he asked them whose head and inscription were on it. They answered, “Caesar’s,” and he responded: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s”.

          The currency is issued by the state, which sets certain rules for its use. But it does not ‘own’ the money in circulation, or the value it represents. I cannot believe that Joshua bar Joseph (aka Jesus Christ) was not aware of that unsubtle difference. But it fits in with the rest of his teaching generally: do not enter a battle unless you know you can win, and accommodate when you can’t. He probably had in mind the tendency of certain Jewish factions to ignore that, as in the case of the doomed revolt of the Maccabees in 166 BCE.

          • whitelaughter says:

            I suggest you pull a note out of your wallet, and read who owns it. While your claim that the govt doesn’t own money is the most easily disproven, everything else you’ve written is equally wrong.

          • Jimbob says:

            “This ‘allegorical’ school of theological interpretation is IMHO a total cop-out, and is selectively applied. Genesis says six days: not six phases, six periods or six whatyoumaycallems. Six days. Full blanky stop.”

            And your insistence Ian that creation occurred in “six” days is not “selectively applied”? What kind of “days” would they be exactly? Sidereal days? (that is to say 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4.0916 seconds – well, at least the first three days of creation couldn’t have been because there was no sun to measure a sidereal day until the fourth “day”). Were they Solar days? (you know – sidereal day +4 minutes or thereabouts – again see my point above re: the first three days)

            And in any case how long was a day before matter cooled sufficiently in our neck of the universal woods to actually form a sun with a planet to go around it every 24 hours or in modern terms 86164.1 seconds (give or take depending on whether the day was solar or sidereal). I’m sure the author of genesis checked his caesium 133 rod….

            So when Peter the Apostle writes that with the Lord a day is a like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day does he mean that one sidereal day, (or is it solar?) is literally one thousand years “full blanky stop” or does he mean it’s a b…y long time?

            Marx’s insight into religion was profoundly true – it’s the soft heart of a cruel and brutish world and an “opiate” to help people locked in time to cope with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in the here and now. But really, it’s not religion which is the opiate. Seems to me it’s atheism which the true opiate – a crutch to help those locked in time to cope with the possibility of a just reckoning when this mortal coil is laid aside.

      • In the womb one builds ones body for the world: one cannot remember what one did in the womb, but if one gets it wrong, one pays the penalty and either turns into a miscarriage or comes out deformed. In the world one builds ones soul for eternity: many dont know what they are doing, but if they get it wrong, then they may pay the penalty in eternity, which like God, is outside of time. So dont get hung up on what look like difficulties such as God’s days.

  5. Ian MacDougall says:

    Ahem. The Earth was created in 6 days, give or take a couple of hours. Adam and Eve and the dinosaurs all in there together. And that so-called ‘Precambrian’ was jumping alive with rabbits.

    https://answersingenesis.org/age-of-the-earth/how-old-is-the-earth/
    cf: https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Falsifiability_of_evolution

  6. StephenD says:

    I’m not impressed by the atheist responses to this article. They are far too intellectually complex. The simple question is, if you think murder is wrong, why do you think that? If you think stealing is wrong, why do you think that? Remember, neither you nor David Hume nor Richard Dawkins nor any other of your Western intellectual heroes lived in a vacuum. They lived in a world saturated with Christian ethics. Not Roman ethics. Not philosophical ethics.

    In reality there are few people, other than Christians, engaging in ethical debate in the public square today who are prepared to say anything is morally wrong. And the reason is, as Peter Smith says, that in fact they have no way of knowing that anything is morally wrong. They know what their own “values” are, but they cannot believe in a universally valid set of moral imperatives that applies to everybody else as well as themselves. Christians do not have this predicament. This is not to say the atheist’s “values” might not conflict with those of the Christian. The point is that the Christian is using a moral category that is not accessible to the atheistic philosopher.

    The result is that public debate now relies entirely on the only universal moral language accessible to the atheist, namely that of human rights. The problem with human rights discourse is that it forces you to equate murder (for example) with depriving a person of their right to life. So you are stuck with an impoverished moral discourse.

    There is a further problem with human rights, namely that they have no intellectual credentials. The UN Declaration of 1948 simply invented them. In other words they represent the effort of the framers, who were working with basic Christian concepts (this is the actual historical scenario) to make Christian ethics palatable to atheists. Much was lost in the process. Certainly the result was a Declaration that carries no moral weight. Rather it was ushered into the ether in the hope that it would attract support. This is hardly a promising basis for a universal moral code.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      Perhaps. But people DO behave ethically and morally while not fearing a vengeful sky-tyrant.

      • This would be one of the few things that I would agree with you 100%, Ian.
        To me, there is far more evidence that human beings ‘made’ [invented] God [or gods] than any God ‘made’ humans. Humans during their social ‘evolution’ have proven that they have a psychological need for something that is greater than themselves, and to my mind it partially explains why gods ‘evolved’ from being just sun/moon/bear etc. gods in the early societies into eventually becoming an all seeing all knowing supernatural entity.
        It also explains the latest manifestation of this entity – ‘Gaia’ – and it explains why the catastrophic AGW hoax has gained such traction.

      • whitelaughter says:

        Yes, people behave ethically and morally while not fearing a vengeful sky-tyrant. That’s because the vengeful sky-tyrant only exists in anti-religious propaganda.

        • Ian MacDougall says:

          Deuteronomy 32:35

          • Jimbob says:

            John 3:16

          • Ian MacDougall says:

            Ah yes. John 3:16:
            For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

            In other words, God sacrificed his son; to himself. Because God had a need, in himself, for blood sacrifice. And what was this sacrifice all for? Nobody knows, certainly not around here.
            For the sin committed by Adam and Eve, tempted into it by a talking snake?
            I believe that…. I believe that to be the most incredible con, and the greatest fairy tale of all time. Because a talking snake tempted our alleged earliest ancestral parents into eating a piece of fruit in the Garden of Eden that God for whatever reason did not want them to eat, we have had all the wars, misery and suffering in history. All the Final Solutions and Gulag Archipelagos: the lot. And all for some piece of fruit?
            You have got to be joking, Mr Jimbob!

  7. Homer Sapien says:

    Good on you Peter, brave article.”The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.” Proverbs 9:10

  8. Homer Sapien says:

    Centerum, telling the truth in a time of universal deceit is a brave act.

  9. Keith Kennelly says:

    The belief in a higher authority is something all civilisations, societies and individuals crave. Our society has put its faith in the higher authority of one God.

    That was given to us by the first monotheists. The Pharoah Akhenartum and His wife Nefritti and in through the Hebrews.

    Till then the Egyptians did not have a one god philosophy. They had minor gods akin to our ‘ gods of football, racing etc’. No God represented their higher authority.

    They believed in Ma’at. The higher authority of Truth, Order and Justice.
    This was the fundamental belief underpinning their civilisation.

    The Egyptian civilisation existed with this higher authority for over 3000 years.

    The Third kingdom went into decline after Akhenartum and later contact with the barbarian Greeks and Romans.

    I think as a society we are seeing the end of the corrupting monotheist ideas and moralities.

    Ps the Egyptians did not have marriage and their sexual promiscuity was legendary. They were the first society to have effective contraception and equality if the sexes.

    While we have these things in our community they are relatively new, undermine the monotheist belief, and are forging change in our communities.

    Bearing in mind the great philosophers believe it is communities that are the source of all philosophy we as individuals will develop our own belief system to cope with these changes.

    We will develop a belief system to replace the one we are discarding.

    It won’t be Socialist or the totalitarianism of an elite or managerial class. Socialism has been rejected and elitism is being rejected.

  10. Bill Martin says:

    Once again, right on cue, the atheists amongst QOL readers dutifully do their vigorous best to “enlighten” those of us with a different persuasion, lest we remain captives of our childish delusions. It is noteworthy that while the disbelievers appear rather keen to convince all and sundry of the validity of their stance, those on the opposite side of the discourse seem rather sanguine about the matter.

    • Keith Kennelly says:

      Bill

      The article opened by asking a question.

      ‘Imagine all belief in God is gone. What moral law will then prevail in such a vacuum?’

      I didn’t just ‘try to “enlighten” without invitation.

      I gave proof of what a civilisation can achieve for over a 3000 years

      • Keith Kennelly says:

        Oops

        With an alternative moral law or a non belief in a single God.

        I am open to a convincing argument that the operation of the institutions and beliefs of the monotheist religions produced a civilisation as dynamic and with equilevant longevity. And remember the greatest developments have come after the rejection of religious domination.

        Whether there is a god or not and what form god takes is an entirely different question than the operation of a moral code.

        • Jimbob says:

          “And remember the greatest developments have come after the rejection of religious domination.”

          Such as what Keith?

          • whitelaughter says:

            Gulags are about the only thing he could possibly be talking about.

          • Keith Kennelly says:

            Oh I suppose notions of the separation of church and state, secularism, the Gutenberg Press, the enlightenment, emphasis on individual choice and freedom, liberal democracy, the industrial revolution, the space age, universal education, ttechnological age.

            All these things could not have occurred if the churches the enforcer of religion had not been challenged by Luther and subsequently dumped by the great mass of people.

            Is that sufficientJimbob?

            That’s why I laugh hard whenever I hear our western society being described as Judeo Christian in nature.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      Bill:

      Imagine all belief in God is gone. What moral law will then prevail in such a vacuum? What’s to prevent some lives being deemed worthwhile and others not? Some will be adjudged as contributors to the greater good and others not. The latter will be dispensable.

      A bit of a leap of faith there, I would say. Right there in the threadstarter. This thread; at the very top.
      I choose to take issue with it. What is wrong with that? Particularly since Quadrant badges itself as “The leading general intellectual journal of ideas, literature, poetry and historical and political debate published in Australia.” [My emphasis – IM]

  11. pgang says:

    Excellent Peter, and courageous. Of course we have the historical evidence too, and millions of the murdered to back you up. But atheists will never relinquish their chip-on-shoulder against God, or their self-worship for the sake of mere logic, genuine scientific investigation, historical evidence, or self-evident reality.

    I hope this means that you have thrown existentialist, naturalistic evolutionism into the rubbish bin of ideas where it belongs, with all of the other stupid and self-destructive fairy tales that mankind has come up with to try to escape reality.

  12. Macspee says:

    Oh dear, talk about tired old shibboleths.
    Belief based on faith is a different creature than belief based upon reason. Faith is not based upon anything other than the belief it is true. If you assert that your faith is true it is your job to establish its truth. If another thinks that the faith is nonsense, has no foundation, and is irrational the other doesn’t have any duty to prove your position. You can’t prove a negative. After all, if you have belief faithfully that fairies are at the bottom of your garden, prove it. If I assert that there are no fairies I don’t have to prove there are none if only because for every argument I have you can say that I am mistaken, or I just can’t see them because I have eyes that filter out fairies. Most atheists don’t really care what theists believe or why and don’t try to convert believers to non-belief despite Greg and Peter to the contrary: they just get on with their lives. Agnostics, on the other hand, are just dishonest, knowing that there is no proof of God’s existence they pretend that maybe they are wrong: kind of like giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
    Having a belief in God or no belief in God is no guarantee of virtue Don’t start with the vile people of the 20th century and pretend there were no vile people in earlier times who were ardent believers in God and the Bible and the Koran.
    It does not take much thought to realise that there are many people who in the past, and today, espouse and, indeed, strictly follow principles of morality, principles that are often followed more in their espousal than their observance by theists.
    The idea that without God there is no morality is not just a little ridiculous. Principles of morality that are common among men were around long before the Jews discovered Yahweh, and are really nothing but the rational working out of sensible ways for people to interact in societies, small and large, for their mutual benefit and the protection of themselves and their loved ones.
    Those who think that without God or theistic belief the world will collapse in an orgy of killing really need to look carefully at themselves and their personal values. If you can’t be a good person without a belief in God maybe you are not really a nice person underneath it all.

    • Jimbob says:

      “Those who think that without God or theistic belief the world will collapse in an orgy of killing really need to look carefully at themselves and their personal values”

      Any good examples of professed atheistic societies which have not collapsed in an orgy of killing?

      I’m quite aware of your arguments but if there is no God, what is the point of any kind of morality?

      Words such as “rational working or sensible ways for people to interact…etc. etc.” just don’t cut it. Without God there is absolutely no rhyme or reason for any of us to be here, let alone behave in what you call “rational” and “sensible” ways. We are just a conglomeration of atoms of absolutely no value whatsoever. What would it matter if we were “civil” or not? What would it matter if we survived or not and what would it matter if we felt any absurd emotion like “love”? Why not gas, nuke or biologically infect or chemically asphyxiate countless billions of fellow humans if possible? It’s not as though there is anyone to answer to is there? And if after I commit such horrors, if anyone is left alive and kills me in vengeance for what I had done what would it matter anyway? I just go back to becoming disaggregated atoms sooner rather than later.

      Unfortunately, theistic belief this side of heaven makes no one perfect, maybe just a little bit better in certain areas. Nevertheless the possibility of a just reckoning and being held personally responsible for choices made in this life acts as a kind of restraint on excessive depravity as illustrated in “professed” (rather than actual) atheistic societies. Sinfulness is the one common denominator of all humanity and it rears it’s ugly head in every society at every time. The degree of restraint seems to me at least to be directly proportional to the amount of “faith” exercised. History (and vey recent history at that) has demonstrated that the more humans brazenly raise their fists to the heavens, the less restraint on depravity there is and the more severe its’ expression.

      Like I said, show me a good example of a working, atheistic society, then I might “believe” that its’ a better temporal option than societies which tolerate religion. Until then………as John Lennon said in his fist raising song….it exists only in some imaginations

      • Ian MacDougall says:

        Humans are able to imagine themselves in the shoes of others. It’s called empathy.
        Arguably, in the course of human evolution individuals lacking empathy would not fit into their families, tribes and communities as well as those having it, and hence would be selected out one way or another. Cast out of their hunter-gatherer group, they would be more likely to finish up as meals for wild carnivores, and less likely to leave offspring.

        • Jimbob says:

          Sorry Ian, but you can’t be serious. If evolution only selects those that have the “empathy” gene so that humanity can survive would you not think that after countless generations the non-empathetic will have disappeared altogether”? I’m old enough to be connected to the horrors of WWII (teenage parents who lived through it’s worst excesses and memories that were still vivid in my formative years) and yet here we are at the beginning of a new millennium and we still have merciless beheadings driven not by “empathy” but by mad bloodlust. We have non-empathetic tyrants who consign there only people to hunger, misery and early death and threatening everyone else with nuclear evaporation. I could go on but I won’t.

          Sinfulness (or moral evil – same thing if you prefer a philosopher’s rather than a theologian’s definition) remains the one constant. As the “memory” of the obscenity of WWII fades into the pages of history books to be redacted and rewritten by often mindless academics, the risk heightens that even worse catastrophes will break out given the WMD’s now common all over the world and in the hands of the “empathetic” (not).

          • Ian MacDougall says:

            Sorry Ian, but you can’t be serious. If evolution only selects those that have the “empathy” gene so that humanity can survive would you not think that after countless generations the non-empathetic will have disappeared altogether”?

            Short answer: No.
            I guess that as for many characteristics, it is probably multifactorial, allowing some with very nurturing personalities to coexist in the same tribe, family, organisation… along with the greedier types. (Greed BTW when I was a Christian, was a sin.)
            I subscribe to the view that people fundamentally divide into givers and takers.

      • Keith Kennelly says:

        ‘Any good examples of professed atheistic societies which have not collapsed in an orgy of killing?’

        Yes Ancient Egypt and its civilisation continued for over 3000 years and only went into decline after the advent of monothesism.

        How many times do I have to repeat this before it sinks in?

  13. Bill Martin says:

    On they go, bless them, keen to prove the validity of their take on the world.

  14. Keith Kennelly says:

    Fine Bill

    But I’ve given you an example of how a civilisation without a god but with an alternative belief system has, grown, thrived and existed for a period longer than any society with a one God belief system.

    And you dismiss it out of hand as ‘my take on the world’.

    Obviously your belief is rooted in faith not on tangible evidence or history.

    Fine, but don’t criticise others for doing exactly as you are doing. It sort of debases the ideas underlying Christ’s message. And for your info. My life is guided, in part, by the philosophy of Christ but I absolutely reject its corruption by religious belief.

  15. Ian MacDougall says:

    Jimbob: (@ November 3, 2017 at 11:53 pm):
    I have not ever encountered a single scientist who believes on evidence that the Earth formed before the Sun did, and certainly no astronomer or physicist. There might be the odd medico, mycologist or mathematician, maybe perhaps and just possibly, though even then a vanishingly small chance, IMHO.

    So when Peter the Apostle writes that with the Lord a day is a like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day does he mean that one sidereal day, (or is it solar?) is literally one thousand years ‘full blanky stop’ or does he mean it’s a b…y long time?

    I would say that probably St Peter had no idea of sidereal time, relativity and the rest of it. And that expression “a day is a like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day” is not much of a distinction in the light of modern concepts of the age of the Universe and of geological time, involving billions of years, and billions of galaxies, each one containing billions of stars. Christ himself, although one with God the Father and Creator, likewise never betrayed any knowledge of the depth of astronomical time, relativity or space-time. Though God the Father and Creator might have let him in on these facts privately, with a caution to keep what he has just been told to himself. Fathers have been known to do that.

    • Jimbob says:

      “I have not ever encountered a single scientist who believes on evidence that the Earth formed before the Sun did, and certainly no astronomer or physicist”

      Neither have I – but that’s not what I said. You’ve got it though. If St. Peter had no idea, pity the poor writer of Genesis who predated him by a millennium of so….absolutely 1 day full blanky stop?

      • Keith Kennelly says:

        Hang on a minute Jimbob.

        It is Genesis of the Old Testament or the Hebrew bible to which you are referring?

        Ahem, but the ‘poor writer’ of Genesis were actually a couple of Jewish scribes from Babylon who wrote the Hebrew bible in about 600 bc.

        Now while the stories in the Old Testament may have been based on verbal tales the book itself wasn’t penned until 600bc. And of course the Councils of Nicea were dictated what was contained in the christian bible. And they were well after Peters time.

        Stories about the books and the content are rarely roveablw.

      • Ian MacDougall says:

        And your insistence Ian that creation occurred in “six” days is not “selectively applied”? What kind of “days” would they be exactly? Sidereal days? (that is to say 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4.0916 seconds – well, at least the first three days of creation couldn’t have been because there was no sun to measure a sidereal day until the fourth “day”). Were they Solar days? (you know – sidereal day +4 minutes or thereabouts – again see my point above re: the first three days)

        Well of course, Jimbob or whatever your real name is, you would know best what you meant by the above passage at the time you wrote it.
        But I took it to mean what it looks like it means. You are arguing for the literal, allegorical or whatever truth of scripture. I prefer science, which sometimes supports scripture, and sometimes doesn’t: witness the classic conflict between the theologians and Galileo, which the theologians lost.

        • Jimbob says:

          Keith and Ian

          I get the various scholarly views about when the Bible was written and when it was “canonised” but all I’m saying is that Bible and Science aren’t necessarily in conflict and never really were. The conflict has always been between “theism” and “naturalism” – not “theism” and “science”. Science is best when it describes what is observable and repeatable – laws that describe patterns in nature etc. etc.

          As for John 3.16 there will be many here who know exactly what that “sacrifice” was for. I’m sure as an ex-Christian you will also have heard what it was for but you choose to reject it because it wasn’t/isn’t compelling for you. That is quite OK and I don’t think any the less of you though I can disagree and even “argue” with you. I can’t prove my point one way or another using science or philosophy or theology. It remains for ever a matter of faith and the only proof of anything I choose to believe will be confirmed when Christ returns. If He doesn’t, I will be like many billions of others, a fool greatly to be pitied. But if He does……..time will tell…..

      • Jody says:

        “The Guardian”? I’m gagging. Sorry, it’s a generally low-brow specimen populated by propagandists of the Left!!

        • Ian MacDougall says:

          Jody, I suggest you judge the article by its content, not by the rag/journal/newspaper/website/ratsheet etc that it appears in. I read the Groan online every day. Some of the articles there I agree with, and some I don’t. As is the case for this site.
          One C. Hitchens did us all a great service by discriminating between the pro-totalitarian Left (PTL) and the anti-totalitarian Left (ATL). He identified with the latter. And as I have never found myself in disagreement with Hitchens on anything, I suppose that might qualify me as part of the ATL too.
          It takes quite a skill to be 100% wrong 100% of the time on 100% of the issues, though no doubt some do manage it.

          • Jody says:

            Point taken. I have an aversion to “The Guardian” as I do to the ABC. It masks as highbrow by throwing in articles like these occasionally but it’s every bit the lowbrow bully pulpit for the Left. To whit; Kathryn Murphy (aka “the croaker”)..”there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women”. Not to mention Van Badham and other twelve year olds from the resentment-fuelled Left.

          • Jody says:

            By their fruits shall ye know them.

  16. Jody says:

    PS: Hitchens came to despise the Left in ALL its incarnations. Read “Hitch 22″.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      As did the admirable Nick Cohen. See http://www.spectator.co.uk/2015/09/why-ive-finally-given-up-on-the-left/
      It is also hard to define the contemporary Left. It takes a major issue like the Vietnam War to galvanise it into some sort of unity of action and purpose. It is on issues of border protection that I find its stance most hopeless, and I otherwise don’t think Bill Shorten would be much of an improvement on Whatshisname, the current incumbent.

      • Jody says:

        I agree with Jordan Peterson; the mask of compassion from the Left only thinly disguises resentment, jealousy and rage. He’s nailed it. “The Guardian” is an activist site with the sole agenda to promulgate green and hard left ideologies. It long ago left the interests of the working people far behind. As George Orwell once said, “the Left dislikes the poor and hates the right”. Bingo.

        • Jody says:

          “Hates the rich”. My typos are getting worse as my NBN speed slows to a crawl and my letters don’t appear until ages after typing them.

          • Ian MacDougall says:

            A safer formulation might be: “The Left dislikes the poor and hates the Right. Meanwhile the Right dislikes the poor and hates the Left, but loves those of the rich they are not in competition with. And detests those of the rich they are in competition with. Meanwhile the Centre can dislike both or neither, depending on the issue and sometimes, on the weather.”
            And that’s just on a good day.

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