2nd Debate, Atheism and Morality, 7th Round, Atheist's Post

Seventh Round: Atheist's Post

Note: the ">" signifies an earlier post.


>Chad, this may or may not be my final post in this discussion.
>It depends what you do next, whether you stay on topic, and if
>you answer the actual questions asked. You see, I am rather
>discouraged about our discussion. I have repeatedly addressed
>your consistent failure to stick to the issue, to provide a
>rational basis for your moral imposition upon others, and your
>lack of moral consistency in condemning the atheists who broke
>the rules.

Therefore, I cannot see continuing this much
>longer. I have a great deal of behind the scenes CARM work
>that has taken a back seat to this discussion. This postponed
>work is demanding my attention, and I am forced to respond.
>So, my time is now very limited.

Nevertheless, I offer
>this short post in hopes that you can actually address some of
>the issues raised more specifically. But lest the atheists
>think that I am unable to respond to you, I have provided a
>link to the entire post you made with my responses included
>therein: www.carm.org/atheism/1-chad6.htm So, I don't want
>the atheists thinking that I can't respond to what you said.
>After all, their objectivity has already been demonstrated to
>be very inconsistent so I do not expect them to fairly analyze
>and represent our discussion here or elsewhere on the

I will respond only briefly to this. I believe that my responses have, indeed, been on topic. In some cases you may not be able to understand this because (as you have made clear) you see us in a spiritual war and must view my answers through that light. In others it seems that you cannot follow the basic logic of my argument, e.g. when you claim that it is "off topic" to show that ~atheism leads to similar lapses as atheism. I submit, however, that your inability to follow an argument does not automatically indicate that it is unsound.

I have never expected to convince you of anything. I have known you (as a poster) too long to think this possible. And if it is your honest opinion that I'm wasting your time, I will certainly understand if you prefer to end the conversation. Meanwhile, I will continue to answer your questions as best I can in order that those reading, if not yourself, may come to a better understanding of my thinking and of atheism.

Having said that, I must make one comment on the page you link to with full replies. If it is intended merely to show you have answers to my post, as a link to this thread, that's fine. If, however, you plan to leave it up with a link from your Atheism page, I have an objection. To do so removes the context of what comes before and thus distorts the content of the discussion, while also giving you the position of final rebuttal.

Of course it is up to you what you print on your own boards.

Finally, I strongly request that you limit your
>responses to the information on this page. More specifically,
>if you go to the end of this post you will see a conclusion
>with questions. These are the real issues that it has come
>down to in my mind. So, if you refuse to respond to them
>specifically, I will consider the debate over and your lack of
>ability to shuttling respond to them an admission that you

As noted, I have never hoped to change your mind about atheism, so what you personally conclude will not surprise me. That said, I have no idea what you mean by my lack of ability to "shuttling respond".

Please understand that I am not trying to paint
>you into a corner by proposing a set of questions, that if you
>don't respond to, I declare myself the winner of our
>discussion. That isn't a fair thing to do. But, given that I
>produced multitudenous amounts of responses to you, with
>corrections, with questions that are thoroughly documented in
>our posts, I am honestly asserting that the area at the end of
>this post "Conclusion" is the condensation of the real
>issues . . . at least the ones I have been attempting to
>repeatedly focus on, and which I believe you have tried to

Following are just some of the many problems
>in your post. Of course, you may or may not respond to these
>points, but if you do, I probably will will ignore most if not
>all of what you say and go straight to the questions on the
>conclusion section of this post.

1. You have supported my position
>repeatedly that beliefs lead to actions. You have stated that
>the reason you come to the carm web site is not because you
>lack belief in God, right? The reason you come here as you
>said above, is to clarify atheism, among other reasons,
>correct? Great. If so, then, I say again, that you are
>confirming my hypothesis that beliefs lead to actions. Your
>confirming to me that your motivation is not based upon a lack
>of something, but a belief in something. Apparently, you
>believe you can instruct Christians on what atheism really
>means, and that you can clarify atheistic principles Again,
>you are confirming my position. So, it makes no sense to me
>why you would continue to argue against a point I have made
>and you are supporting.

I've been very clear on this. My objection has always been to your assertion that one should conclude that atheists are here because we actively disbelieve in God. You have asserted that one should conclude this contrary to the simple testimony of individual atheists (i.e. one should conclude that we are speaking falsely about their own motivations) on the grounds that their actions are inconsistent with simply lacking belief in God.

Originally I thought that by "belief" you meant simply belief in what does or doesn't exist. I concluded this because this was the only type of belief you discussed--the dichotomy of "lacks belief" and "actively disbelieves". Thus I brought up other motivations for actions, such as stakes and preferences.

When you said that these were included among the beliefs that could lead to actions, I said I was quite happy (in that case) to concede that actions come from beliefs but pointed out that this only supported my objection to your central claim--that one should conclude that I and other atheists actively disbelieve in God.

My list of beliefs in the last post aimed to show--and did show, IMO--that if we use "belief" broadly enough that it does capture all motivations, my actions on CARM are perfectly consistent with lack of belief in God combined with other positive beliefs--specifially, the ones listed in my last post.

2. You have tried to get me
>to accept the idea that an assumption you have is not a
>presupposition you work with. I'm sorry, but logic does not
>allow me to accept that as a working theory.

Easy to say . . . but you have yet to make such a case. I also note that you (deliberately?) omit the word "working" from "working assumption". The two are not identical.

>Let's work with your definition of subjectivity and
>objectivity. If your morality originates in your own mind,
>then it is subjective according to your definition and you
>have no right to impose it upon anyone else. This means that
>you have no right to say that someone else is wrong and have
>your judgment imposed upon anyone else. If a man raped and
>murdered a woman, you would have no right to say that it is
>wrong because your subjective, self originating, and
>inconsistent moral standard belongs to you and you have no
>right to impose your moral judgment upon anybody else. This is
>a profound weakness in atheism. If you want to demonstrate to
>me that this is not a weakness in atheism, then please
>logically tell me why rape and murder is morally wrong?

It is morally wrong because human life and human happiness are of great moral value. Thus, the taking of human life and the creation of great suffering are of great negative moral value (at the risk of speaking in geeky mathematical terms).

None of this is invalidated by the fact that I recognize that these values (like all values) exist only in minds.

7. On several occasions, you changed the
>terms I have been using in our discussion. For example, I was
>using the term "absolute" in comparison to your subjective
>morality. You use the term "objective" instead of the term I
>raised. Please consider the following quotes from earlier in
>our discussion, Round 4, where I introduced the issue of an
>absolute moral code and compared it to atheistic moral

As you have said yourself, it is important to define the terms we will be discussing. The counterpart to "subjective" is "objective," not "absolute". Moreover, when you indicated that your definition of subjective included "fanciful" and "illusory" I knew we were speaking of two entirely different concepts. Thus, I explained what the words mean when I use them. If you wish to suggest alternative definitions, fine. But to complain about me wanting our terms to be clear is a bit much.

8. You said, "You have asked on several occasions
>whether I (or other moral subjectivists) have a "right" to
>impose our morals on others? The problem with this question is
>that it contains a hidden word--you're really asking if we
>have an objective right. The answer to that is no. The right
>to do so is entirely subjective."

First of all, my
>question does not contain a word that is not there. I wrote
>the question. It contains exactly the words I wanted there.
>There are no hidden words. Besides, if it were hidden, how
>would you know to look for it? Furthermore, where am I hiding
>the word? Where is it?

By hidden, I was not implying anything deceptive on your part. I was simply pointing out that the question is only meaningful if you are asking what objective right I have, since the subjective right is obvious.

Third, you
>have no right by your own admission to impose your moral
>standard upon anybody else--FINALLY!

It's amazing the extent to which you complain that I'm not responding to your points or am distorting what you write when you quite often reverse what I've written. How did you get from, "The right to do so is entirely subjective," to no right at all?

. . . I think (though I'm
>not sure for really is an actual response since it appears to
>be self-contradictory). So, you said you have no objective
>right to impose your moral standard on anyone, but then you
>said, "The right to do so is entirely subjective." As noted, I
>did not say "objective" right. You did. And, you admit you
>have no "objective right" to impose your morals on anyone, but
>then you say "the right to do so is entirely subjective." How
>can you not have an objective right to impose morality, yet
>also have a subjective one to do that?

Because if morality is subjective, then "objective right" is a non-sequitor, at least in the abstract. (One can certainly have an objective right within a particular moral code.)

This a violation of
>the law of non-contradiction. To have a subjective right to
>do something "say you have a right," a moral right to impose
>your morality on others. This makes no sense at all,

Fortunately, "Matt doesn't understand X" does not, in fact, imply "X is a violation of the law of non-contradiction."

9. I
>have concluded from what you have said that if God existed, he
>would have no right to impose His moral standard upon you,
>since, as you said, his morality would be subjective, i.e.,
>originating from within himself.

This (and what follows), as I hope I can make clear below, is a conclusion you have drawn from your own preconceptions--not from anything I have said.

I am not at war with God, despite your presupposition to the contrary. If you are unable to shake this preconception and insist on reading my words through that distorting lens, it is unsurprising that you will come to conclusions like this.

Think about it, God the
>creator the universe and all humanity is denied the right of
>moral judgment based upon an atheist's subjective moral
>system. In other words, even though, as you say, that your
>moral system is subjective and originates in you, you can
>still impose upon God your subjective system. You do this by
>saying that He has an equally subjective system and cannot
>impose his morality on you? . . . is that right? So, you're
>making a moral judgment at this point. You impose upon God the
>moral judgment that he cannot impose his morality upon you.

Just to be clear, I do not do this. See below.

>This is a moral judgment on your part and a demonstrably
>inconsistent declaration as well; that is, if I understood
>your position properly. By the way, when you meet Him, your
>argument will carry no weight at all and instead, you will bow
>the knee.

Quite likely . . . but also irrelevant to the discussion. Try to stay focused and on topic.

10. In
>our discussion of atheism and morality, you offered a veiled,
>and apparently retaliatory, attempt to discredit and malign
>myself and Diane offering a highly transparent fictional
>scenario. You said you wanted to respond strongly, so, you
>deviated from the topic, and sought to infer a moral judgment
>upon my actions. Again, this is not a discussion about
>Christianity and morality. It is a discussion on atheism and
>morality. Please, stay focused and on topic.

I'm not sure why you're unable or unwilling to follow my simple logic (you certainly have ignored it in this response), but I will repeat it again. Your assertion that atheism leads to certain behaviors is unsound on several points. One of those points is that
~atheism leads to similar behaviors.

You have pointed to CARM rules violations and asserted that atheists are untrustworthy because they violate CARM rules. But unless it can be shown that non-atheists don't commit similar "untrustworthy" actions, the claim is meaningless. If you can look at a group in isolation and claim that any observations made about members of that group are caused by being members of that group, then why not claim that atheism causes tooth decay? I'm sure you could find that most atheists have had cavities.

In short, pointing out that Christians also commit dishonest acts or break CARM rules is not off-topic. It is an appropriate part of a demonstration that your conclusion does not follow from the evidence you provided.

11. It
>is difficult to ascertain exactly what your position is on
>imposing moral judgments on others. You have given me a lot of
>your opinions but no rational basis for your moral judgments.
>All you've given me a subjectivity. Nevertheless, you have
>demonstrated that you can make a moral judgment upon someone
>else. You praised Limana by saying she is a "good" atheist.
>Yet, you fail to make negative moral judgments upon the
>atheists who committed blatant rule violations. Therefore, you
>demonstrate your inconsistency.

I invite you to read my last post in which I said that while I didn't consider their actions worthy of condemnation I also didn't agree with many of them. (If I wasn't clear, I meant agree on a moral level.)

If you are able to say that
>one atheist is good. Are you also able to say that other
>atheists are bad? You cited Limana's actions on the board as
>evidence of her being good. Logically, the actions of the
>atheists who blatantly violated the board rules should be bad
>by your standard--wait, maybe you don't have a
>self-originating standard. Anyway, don't worry. I do not
>expect you to pronounce a moral judgment on your fellow
>atheists regarding their blatant rule violations, since it
>would not further your position in this argument.

I think it would be interesting to collect a list of ad homs by you in this one post. Here, for example, you imply that I will act only in ways that further my position in the argument . . . a pure example of ad hominem.

.. even
>though you have pronounced moral judgment on at least one of
>them. Again, I see this as yet another grave inconsistency in
>your part.

12. Now, regarding your quoting an
>alleged prominent CARMite who has a problem with my approach,
>without disclosing who it is, and who apparently is a mind
>reader. Chad, you are not helping your position at all. I am
>quite discouraged in my hopes for further rational dialogue
>with you. It seems you are trying to retaliate.

Again, and at the risk of repeating myself, my wish was not to retaliate but rather to show that the failings you claim are the result of atheism are found in all people: atheist, Christian and others. Thus the assertion that they are caused by atheism is unsubstantiated.

This is
>getting old. Nevertheless, let's examine what this prominent,
>yet unnamed, CARMite says--at least when I used quotes, I
>stated who they were from.

Your quotes were from public statements. Mine was not. It's ironic that you make such hay about rules violations by atheists and then seemingly object that I did not violate the rules by revealing his name (since the information was shared privately and I had permission only to use the content of that paragraph).

Anyway, he starts out with "It was
>intentionally divisive and inflammatory . . . " So, is this person
>able to read my mind and know that I was trying to be
>intentionally divisive and intentionally inflammatory? Do you
>believe the Christian who says that it was my intention to do
>so? It wasn't. But you use a mind reader as support for your
>position without critical examination of his claims. I use the
>term him "mind reader" on purpose. Think about you quoted
>someone else's apparent ability to discern my intentions and
>motivations. You should have been more critical of the
>statement instead of jumping on it without thinking through
>what you were doing. Again, you're not encouraging me
>regarding the future of this discussion.

Your claim that your post was not intentionally divisive and inflammatory is simply not credible. You said that you came to "rattle cages". More importantly, when your post created "division and flames" you said that you got exactly the reaction you expected. If an action causes effect X and the person who made the action and observed the effect says that he got exactly what he expected, it is unavoidable that he is saying he meant to cause X.

In other words, no one is trying to read your mind, Matt. We are taking you at your word.

As an aside, my irony meter has special protections, so it was able to make it through you complaining about someone else not responding to points. It was even able to make it through you saying that it wouldn't be fair of you to declare yourself the winner when you already declared yourself the winner before making your last post. But when you claim over and over again to be able to determine my beliefs and the beliefs of other atheists by inference from our actions and yet complain about mind-reading, it's clear that my safeguards are insufficient.

>Regarding a pattern you claim to see. In this debate on
>atheism and morality, you offer your subjective observation
>about a pattern. Interesting.

What is interesting is that you seem to think that repeating the word "subjective" back at me is some sort of rebuttal to anything. I made a challenge. That you are unwilling to accept it suggests that I'm right.


Those were just some of problems and issues. So I
>propose that if you want to continue this discussion that you
>focus, and I mean focus on the real issues. Here are some
>specific questions dealing with our conversation.

Were the rule violations of the
>atheists morally wrong or not? Remember, you said Limana is a
>good atheist. You made a moral judgment one atheist. Let's
>see you be consistent and do it with those who blatantly broke
>the rules.

Some of them were. Some were not. Some things on your list were not even rules violations.

And, as noted, I do not consider breaking rules on a discussion board to be of great moral importance. I would, for example, rank it as less important than publishing an allegedly scientific essay with false facts from a position of authority.

What right
>have you to impose your moral standard upon my actions of
>using the infamous atheist list in support of my proposition
>that beliefs lead to actions? I am not interested in hearing
>about your subjective opinion. I want to know what right you
>have to impose your moral standard upon my actions. This
>implies that you have a standard to begin with, or do

Have I said that it was immoral of you to use that list? I believe that what I said was that your argument was unsound, because:

1. You looked at a very narrow set of data and ignored data that indicated a different conclusion,
2. You made a judgment about a group of people based on the actions of individuals within that group while ignoring clear exceptions , e.g. HRG and limana who have (AFAIK) spotless records wrt CARM rules, and
3. Similar failings are found in those outside the group, undermining your (unsupported) claim that it is the nature of the group that caused the violations.

However, lest you claim that I'm avoiding your question, let me respond as though the example were accurate--i.e., by what right do I impose my moral standard on someone else?

The answer is simple: by the same right that everyone else does. You seem determined to read into my position some special right that I assign to myself but no others, and this is simply not the case. I am simply a moral agent whose moral values inform many of my actions. So are you. So is everyone else.

Why have you not
>condemned the blatant rule violations of your fellow atheists?

Asked and answered. In all seriousness, Matt, if you ask me a question and receive a simple answer and then repeat the question as though it has not been answered it does not help. Try to stay focused long enough to read my answers so we can avoid this repetition.

Why do you use a message
>from a supposed Christian, who claims to have the ability to
>read minds, and actually try to use it in your argument
>without examining it critically beforehand?

It is only your assertion that I didn't examine it critically, as it is only your (rather outrageous) assertion that he claims special mind-reading powers.

It is also only your (rather sad but rather typical of CARM's leadership lately) assertion that he is a "supposed" Christian.

As for why I used it, there are two simple reasons. First, I thought it was an eloquent and accurate assessment. Second, I hoped (in vain, it seems) that you might actually listen if the message came from a Christian. Perhaps I should have anticipated that your response would be to conclude that he isn't a Christian.

Is someone else's
>opinion the direction you want to go to support your atheist
>position on morality?

His statement, as you well know, was not about my position on atheist morality but rather on the nature of your own actions. Try to stay focused on what was actually said.

Finally, I propose the

Your moral source is
>subjective since it arises in you.

Yes. My "moral source" are my values. Others certainly played a major role in their development but they exist in my mind.

Your morality is


You cannot
>impose your morality on anyone else, since your morality is

Non-sequitor. You have repeated this assertion quite often but you have yet to support it. Why should I not act on my values?

I value human life. Why should the fact that I recognize that this value exists in my mind prevent me from acting to protect and preserve human life? Why should the fact that I recognize that some other person may not value human life cause me to ignore what I believe?

You require
>that others not impose morality upon you.

Another assertion that you have made but not supported. I "require" nothing of the sort. In fact, just as I will act on my own values, I expect that others will do the same. I give myself no special status.

Of course, I may consider some people's moral codes to be immoral--as they may consider mine. But the same thing is true when two people have different beliefs about what the alleged absolute moral code says.

>To say that others cannot impose
>morality upon you is a moral statement since it deals with the
>issue of moral imposition.

Irrelevant, since it is not something I say.

>to say that others cannot impose morality upon you is to
>impose your moral system upon them. This is a self

Irrelevant, since it is your projection onto me that is inconsistent rather than my own actual postion.

Since you do
>not want others to impose morality upon you, yet you do it to
>them (by stating that you do not want them to impose our
>morals upon you), you demonstrate that you are
>self-contradictory. You are doing the very thing you say
>should not be done.

Continuing on the same path. However, I will point out that there is nothing inconsistent in anyone not wanting others to impose their morality on them. I suspect that very few people actually want moral views they don't hold imposed upon them. The inconsistency would be in asserting some meta-moral right to impose one's views while calling similar imposition by others invalid. Since I don't do that, the point is moot.


I have answered your questions as completely and as simply as I can. I will continue to do so as long as you are interested in the subject, although I hope you will manage to do so without all the veiled attacks on my integrity.


However, I will also understand if you choose to end the discussion. CARM has recently suffered the loss of three worthy volunteers. Although their only crime (so far as I am aware) is to disagree with you over the way you approached the atheist board (and in one case to share that opinion with me), they have been slandered repeatedly by CARM's leadership. Although to my knowledge they did not share private information and have not been confronted with any evidence that they did, they have been publically accused of doing so. They have been called Judas, non-Christian, "immature" and various other slanders. It is truly sad to see CARM coming to this, because in the years I have been posting here I have seen it be a great place of sharing and mutual learning and respect.

I suspect that the root cause of these problems is the perception by CARM's leadership that I and other atheists are not merely misguided but actually your enemy. That belief seems to distort not merely the reading of posts but also the motivations and even actions of any who do not share it. If you are determined to see enemies, you will see them even among your friends.

I have never been an enemy to CARM, or to Christianity. I don't claim always to have been a perfect friend, but I have never sought to undermine anyone's faith or to turn anyone from God. At the inspiration of KevinH, I spent a large amount of time in prayer at the time my daughter was born, honestly and openly seeking whatever God had to say to me. When another Christian (whose name I will not use out of respect for his privacy) had a crisis of faith and came to me with his doubts, I encouraged him not to abandon his faith and challenged the arguments by which he was doubting Christianity. These are not the actions of someone out to undermine Christianity.

I hope, as you decide whether to continue this conversation, that you will consider these words.



About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.