Unpleasant conversations between atheists and theists

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #41

But this is the issue, in my view. We can’t help but to ‘sin’. And ‘sin’ is just God’s rule for us.

And here is my pet peeve. According to God’s rule, an adulterer was to be killed by stoning. And yet, when Jesus shows up, he does not stone anyone. So, he is disobeying the law (that he himself gave) and he is the good guy, who will judge me for disobeying his law!

(Luca) #42

Well there are many views on sin.
And i can’t speak for Jesus man :smiley:

(David Heddle) #43

There is a phase transition OT to NT. Many laws change. In the OT it was proper and moral and commanded to sacrifice animals for a sin atonement. In the NT, in light of Christ’s sacrifice, it would be an abomination.

(Luca) #44

This is true. And it didn’t come to my mind. Thanks David!

(David J) #45

I too get unpleasant remarks for being an atheist. I’m called evil and immoral. So I stopped using that term, as it has become a negative connotation. So, I can kinda relate to what you’re saying.

You’re just going to have to believe in your position and accept the fact that you will have your, outspoken critics.

(George Brooks) #46

I would like to remind Athiests that no good comes from challenging the very basics of Christianity on a site like this. It doesn’t help us explain things to the YECs, and it drives a wedge between Athiests who support Evolution and Christians that support Evolution.

Would it be asking too much for those who want to dismantle Christianity to do so in the Message system? Acres of empty bridges there … with plenty of room for bridge trolls at very low rental rates…

I am a volunteer participant here just like most everyone else … but Atheists with Tuba horns to blow might consider it a point of courtesy to blow the horn where the noise doesn’t drown out everything else…

(Mervin Bitikofer) #47

While there are some Christians who may buy into this, it is mostly an anti-theistic caricature of what Christians allegedly think. You can tell yourself that this is what God is like if that makes you feel better about turning away, but it carries no weight among thinking, biblically literate Christians.

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #48

I think you make a fair point. And it’s well taken.

(Luca) #49

I don’t mind these kinds of discussions personally.

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #50

Well, maybe it’s because you are not a true Christian.

I’m only kidding.

Btw, I updated my name to clarify my status. I think @gbrooks9 was also concerned that the Christians who are doubting their faith due to Creationsm, would come here and see posts of of an Atheist and assume that all Evolutionist Christians are like that. Which is a fair argument, as atheists are not the norm here.

(Luca) #51

That is a good point.

(Jennifer Thomas) #52

Hi Totti. Going back to the question you posted about how other Christians cope with the unpleasant remarks, I have a few thoughts.

I don’t think it’s wise for those of us who believe in God (and I do!) to fall into the trap of accepting that there’s something wrong with us when we feel sadness, disappointment, hurt, and emotional injury after we’ve been attacked for our faith. The feelings are real and the feelings are important. We experience the feelings because part of our core identity has been assaulted, demeaned, treated with contempt, and (though most atheists wouldn’t like to admit this part) treated with hatred.

I think it’s good to be honest about the fact that many people who call themselves Christians are also in the habit of treating other people in demeaning, contemptuous, hate-filled ways. So it’s not a black-and-white issue by any means. (As we know, Jesus had a lot to say about hypocrisy in religious circles.) But in my own experience, the more intentional the attack on faith – and the more self-righteous the attack – the more it feels like schadenfreude rather than simple disagreement about how the universe works.

I have to deal with this issue every day on a personal level as I care for my elderly father. He’s a highly educated, highly rational atheist, and I’m a Christian mystic who feels the presence of God every day. So you can imagine the stress for me as my father relentlessly tries to undermine the values and choices and experiences that make me who I am. He’s constantly trying to remake me in his image of what a proper human being should look like (based on his rational ideology). For my part, because I assume he’s a child of God (as I assume all of us are), I leave it to God to decide how to communicate with my father (not that my father believes any such communication is going on). I’m not trying to save him. I’m just trying to show him as much love and respect as I can – as I’m called to do by God – despite the circumstances.

I don’t try to pretend his attacks don’t injure me. Instead, I set to work to heal the injuries using the tools God and Jesus have taught me. Naturally, I lean constantly on God to help me navigate this process.

The number one tool is forgiveness. I also use gratitude; the quest for meaning (i.e. turning lemons into lemonade); patience (which I still struggle with); and lots and lots of self-care. I set strong limits around my father, which means I sometimes have to walk away from a conversation when he starts to become emotionally abusive. I try my best to find places where we have common ground, such as news events, so we can at least have a civil relationship. I try never to talk about God with him because I can only take so much abuse.

I’d like to be able to say my experience with other atheists has been different, but for the most part, I’ve been treated by them with as much contempt as my father treats me.

So basically what I’m suggesting to you is that you should continue to follow your heart in this matter. Hold true to your faith and your relationship with God. Give up on the idea that you can persuade – let alone save – an atheist, because you can’t. (God gives all of us free will, so only an atheist can change his or her mind, though God has been known to give many atheists diverse and excellent reasons to change their minds :angel:.)

No matter how badly you’re treated by atheists or others who don’t know what faith is, try as hard as you can to forgive them for their viciousness.

Bend but don’t break.

Finally, trust that God loves them despite their harsh words. God knows their hearts (even if they themselves don’t). You’re the lucky one in this situation because you already feel the love! So never, ever apologize for this amazing gift.

All the best to you, my friend.

(Luca) #53

It is very nice to hear those wise words! I appreciate it greatly!
God bless!

(David Murphy) #54

Hey Merv! Sorry, super busy day at work… Exhausted.

Oh, best not get me started on Mother Teresa… Revelling in the suffering of others, withholding medical treatment to the sick, having the dying kept in squalor, not allowing visitation, taking money from dictators and spending it on missionaries and not on the sick in her care while living as a celebrity in luxury herself… There’s something about the mistreatment of the sick and dying that I find truly despicable but let’s not get sidetracked.

Back on topic, I think I get your analogy with scientific literacy. You’re basically saying that it isn’t a one dimensional spectrum from good to evil as I suggested but you feel it’s better characterised as a landscape. Sure, I can roll with that but you still, regardless of the criteria, have to draw a dividing line - you just have to do it with more dimensions but to the same result. A more complex version of the same riddle. And the problem is only worse if everyone is stuck at one end, be it good or bad, because we’re considered relative to each other, that just makes us closer together and harder to judge.

Or is the correct interpretation that the path into heaven isn’t kindness, compassion or humanity; it’s accepting Jesus into your heart as your lord and saviour. So, regardless of how I live my life, Christian tradition has me burning in hell. Likewise, people from other false religions, however sincerely believed, do they burn in hell for eternity? But the mass murderer who accepts Christianity goes to heaven. I fail to see the morality in that to be perfectly honest with you. Now I don’t want to strawman you here, some Christians believe that, I don’t know if it’s universally held or not or what your position is. I’m not sure about the bible passages regarding it.

Another issue. You can’t go to heaven without a soul. But how does the soul make sense?

If we have a soul that does our thinking, then what is the brain for? I know here I don’t have to convince anyone that the brain fulfils a role in thinking - even if we don’t understand yet how it works. How does this soul interact with the brain - how does something immaterial interact with something material? If its interactions are immaterial then it can’t interact with the brain or body, if it’s material then we can detect it. And yet we haven’t. Why does injury and drugs affect our thought if our true thought is immaterial?

Let me give an example, in very rare cases it is necessary to perform a procedure which separates the left and right side of the brain in epilepsy suffers. In one such case, a command to walk was flashed to the right hand side of the brain. The person then stood up and walked. Asked why she had done so she said she just felt like getting a drink (as the left hemisphere which forms language was unaware of the command). How is this possible if souls exist?

At what stage do we get souls? Is the moment of insoulment at conception? But it’s not as simple as that, sometimes conception happens several times, sometimes several sperm enter the egg. What then? What about identical twins, do they share a soul? Rarely, instead of getting twins, you get a individual with a chimeric mix of two genomes. Does this person have two souls?

What about during evolution? Was there a first person with a soul whose parents didn’t have one? Or did it start with a little bit of a soul and build up? When our ancestors were fish, did they have immaterial souls? Do all lifeforms have souls, even single cell? Even if so, they are immaterial, so natural selection can’t work on them - so did God change the souls just a little bit with each generation. Surely, the soul of a snail isn’t the same as Boltzmann’s?

Speaking of Boltzmann, physical work on neurons takes force over distance. Something immaterial doing work breaches the conservation of energy. This is my strongest objection so far.

Key to any afterlife is the concept of a soul, and yet I don’t see how it could make sense. Food for thought I hope!

(David Murphy) #55

By the way, my aim here is 1) to hopefully show that it is possible to have a friendly and respectful chat with an atheist on the topic of religion and 2) I find this topic interesting as you can probably tell 3) I like having my views challenged 4) It’s so refreshing to discuss things constructively outside and it’s been quite entertaining.

Now, this site does a great job in addressing fundamentalist beliefs in a way that I, as an outsider, can’t. I think that’s laudable. If you think I’m distracting from that goal then please by all means let me know and I’ll wish you all a heartfelt adieu.


Not really, I’m particularly really enjoying the discussion myself, but you usually bring out a lot of topics in each post, so I have to take my time to answer all of them properly without giving half baked answers.

(George Brooks) #57


I’m not really clear on your purpose on the BioLogos lists. You’ve come here to exercise your Religious Refutations on a whole raft of concepts that are barely touched upon in the Bible?

You do understand that these boards are intended to discuss how Evolutionary theory can be compatible with Christianity, right?

Let’s look at your discussion points.
Paragraph A is focused on the issue of God’s purpose for Hell. This is a concept that is shared widely across the Evangelical spectrum. I’m a Unitarian Universalist, and so I’m free to consider Hell a metaphysical infestation from Zoroastrianism.

Paragraph B:
You are trying to reduce soul to a mechanical construct … and we don’t even know how entangled electrons work. You arenn’t just an atheist, you are an Apologist against anything that doesn’t meet your standards of concreteness … you should spend more time with refugees from Philosophy 101.

Paragraph C:
The split brain mysteries are not disproof of anything … they prove that much of human behavior happens below the level of consciousness. Christianity is not a religion very interested in consciousness. You should find a nice Buddhist site and dispute with them. This is their bailiwick…

Paragraph D:
Again… .the descent into the hades of materialism. Genetic contribution is not the mother of soul-ness. Neural networks are much more relevant to the issue. Chimeras have no connection to duplicated awarenesses. You would have better luck in asking if Siamese Twins have two souls. Again, this is not really the specialty of Christianity.

Much of your discussion is completely irrelevant to Evolution… frankly, I object to your exploitation of the kind tolerance offered on this list. I too go on tangents… but I try to make up for it by working extra hard on an Evolutionary topic.

Is there anything about Evolution that you are willing to discuss, @David_Murphy?

(Jennifer Thomas) #58

As I read your post about the soul, David, I was wondering if you’re actually interested in the answers to your questions or whether you’re using the questions as a sort of proof-text for your own beliefs. (Truth be told, many of the points you raise about the soul sound a lot like the dualistic body-soul claims of Tertullian, a late 2nd century CE theologian who wrote extensively about morality, the soul, and related issues.)

You’re assuming that the soul is immaterial and that 3D biology is purely material. These are dualistic assumptions. Baryonic matter, which, of course, are bodies are made of, doesn’t exist in isolation from the rest of the energy and matter of the universe. Baryonic matter, which probably constitutes only 4 to 5% of all the energy in the universe, appears to follow the laws of classical physics. But it’s not separate from the fields and particles and quantum laws that govern everything in the universe. So there’s no scientific reason to suppose that our biology isn’t intimately intertwined with quantum laws. Quantum physics is governed by non-Materialist laws. Non-Materialism isn’t at all the same thing as immaterialism. You seem to be conflating non-Materialism and immaterialism. You also seem to imply that those of us who trust in God can’t tell the difference.

It’s quite within the realm of reason to suppose that the soul (that is, a permanent consciousness) is governed by quantum non-Materialist laws. As for the form of energy (or energies) a soul might be created from, we already know of particles that are massless and chargeless, yet still have significant roles to play in the universe. And we know very little about any of them. So take your pick: dark energy, dark matter, a pattern of quark interaction we currently know nothing about, photons in permanent wave form. There are many possibilities that can’t be discounted.

The one thing we know for sure is that all those material molecules you like to think of as your material body follow the laws of classical physics, but within each and every one of those molecules lies a vast quantum soup pot of variables that affect us at the macro level. So it’s not hard to place the soul’s non-classical, non-Materialist energies within that soup pot, where we’re also struggling with questions of non-locality and other forms of quantum weirdness.

You have no way at all of knowing whether or not the non-Materialist energies governing your neurons and glial cells are breaching the laws of conservation of energy. So this, too, is a shaky foundation for an argument about the soul.

And why can’t the soul of a snail be the same as the soul of Boltzmann? It’s anthropocentrism that has led to so many of the abuses and tragedies created by human beings. We’d be a lot better off if we had deep, honest, and empathetic respect for non-human creatures instead of assuming evolution has given us special rights and privileges and placed us at the top of a very special pyramid. (I realize many religious leaders have also fallen into the anthropocentric trap, and some of them have encouraged abuses we’re only now starting to come to terms with. It’s something we all have to work on.)

If you’re certain there’s no God and there’s no soul, you’re within your rights to hold those beliefs. But I respectfully suggest the science isn’t on your side.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #59

Hey, I hear you! It’s always good to have time away from our infernal screens [at least for most of us]!

Noted. I was just picking a typical cultural icon for sainthood. Just substitute in whatever person you admire as being “of highest moral fiber”. [though for the record, I do think your are being uncharitably harsh with her. But maybe you know and have researched more on her than I have. I think I will retain my general admiration for the way she lived, though, knowing well that she, like all of us, was far from perfect.]

Why? That’s the very point I’m challenging, both because the gospel refuses to let us go there, and on top of that you provided an excellent thought experiment that illustrates the futility of even trying to justify such a thing in any case.

[my emphasis added]
I would say rather that we like to consider relative standings and where we think or hope we fall in those. But this very practice of rating everybody rarely (if ever) gets a positive hearing in scriptures. It’s usually Pharisees that are portrayed as doing this.

Here you hit on an age-old nerve (and it is quite the nerve among believers as well as those who, on the strength of this scandal, turn away). It’s the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son. It’s the sweaty day-long workers who then watch as the latecomers received the same wages as themselves. It is indeed a well-known, keenly felt scandal of a way to run things that no capitalistic boss worth his or her salt would ever, ever follow. And yet there you have it … welcome to the upside down kingdom of God! And to give you your due here (so to speak!) your objections in the 7-billion righteousness continuum are actually given more teeth than what I allowed earlier by these scriptural references. Because in some of these parables, it does seem to be implicitly allowed that perhaps some really are more righteous and more deserving than others. But reading the rest of New Testament scriptures along with these, we do learn that while there may be some real (but always insufficient) righteousness, what there really is more often is self-righteousness. I.e. when Jesus says that it is the needy who need a physician, not the healthy; I don’t think he was really endorsing the Pharisees as examples of what it means to be spiritually healthy [even though they were the ones who ostensibly had no need of a physician in his parable]. But when we see how Jesus thought of the Pharisees in other settings, we realize that it was more just that they thought they had “no need of any physician”.

Actually there is a fair amount of interesting disagreement among wide swaths of Christians on this. The way you lay it out here could have been (maybe still is) a fairly traditional way of thinking of it. There seems to be a large (dare I say growing?) contingent of Christians (I include myself here) who have noted that scriptures don’t nearly so often speak of any ethereal soul floating away to heaven so much as we are given pictures of heaven and the kingdom of God descending to earth, and all of us (not just Christians) being resurrected here in the judgment day so that we can hopefully, if we survive judgment, join in the kingdom festivities. So what of the “soul”? I really don’t know. I guess you could call me a soul agnostic. Maybe the monists have it right and our soul is a manifestation of our body. Maybe when we die, there is no soul, no consciousness … that is until we are given new bodies. That seems to me to be one orthodox, and faithful-to-scripture possibility. But you are absolutely right that this is one of the many things we can’t pin down.

[edits already applied … as usual!]

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #60


Welcome and thank you for your contribution.

I would certainly agree that an omnipotent God understood as an Absolute is a serious philosophical problem, but there is a reasonable answer if one is willing to break new ground in thinking. Really we need to do so because otherwise humans have come to a dead end in terms of reasonable philosophical thought.

I have posted my answer to this problem as an essay, God and Freedom on Academia.edu